Handlebars

Album: Fight With Tools (2007)
Charted: 14 37

Songfacts®:

  • This song about power, corruption and the potential that lies in one individual first appeared on an independent EP in 2005 (as "Handle Bars"), and was re-released on the band's major-label debut Fight with Tools two years later as their first single. This song is about the life of a dictator. It starts with the dictator as a young child learning how to ride a bike without handlebars. In the end, the boy is all grown up and has taken over the world. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brandon - Aurora, IL
  • In an interview on KROQ 106.7 Los Angeles, the band said that this song's meaning is open to interpretation but hinted that it was influenced by the events going on around the world.
  • The Flobots, are an indie hip-hop band with an activist-oriented philosophy from Denver, Colorado.
  • The Flobots' MySpace site describes Fight with Tools as "a fire-breathing rallying cry for all free-thinking individuals fed-up with the violence and apathy that have thus far defined the new millennium."
  • MC Jonny 5 (a.k.a. Jamie Laurie) told MTV News: "The song is about the idea that we have so much incredible potential as human beings to be destructive or to be creative. And it's tragic to me that the appetite for military innovation is endless, but when it comes to taking on a project like ending world hunger, it's seen as outlandish. It's not treated with the same seriousness. The lyrics came to me as I was riding a bike home from work with my hands in the air - I had just learned how to do it - and I felt triumphant, but at the same time, I knew there were people at that moment who were being bombed by our own country. And I thought that was incredibly powerful. We have these little moments of creativity, these bursts of innovation, and every time that happens, that innovation is used to oppress and destroy people. So it struck me as beautiful and tragic at the same time."
  • The music video was done with computer animation at the London production house DirtyUK. It depicts the journey from young man learning to ride a bike with no hands to power-mad megalomaniac.
  • Brookis Vermillion presents this case that "Handlebars" is about autism:

    Autism is a brain development disorder that usually sets in the first four years. Autistic people find it difficult to be in social situations, communicate verbally or with body language, and can become obsessive about order. In this song, the singer boasts of his abilities like taking apart a remote control, keeping rhythm with no metronome, and splitting the atom of a molecule.

    "I can take apart the remote control, and I can almost put it back together..." - Thomas Edison, the inventor of electric light was autistic.

    "I can keep rhythm with no metronome" - Wolfgang Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven are two classical composers who are believed to have suffered from acute autism. Their works are widely observed and appreciated by all ages throughout the globe.

    "I can split the atoms of a molecule" - Albert Einstein, the famous physicist who developed the theory of relativity (E=mc2) was also an autistic individual. His formula lead to the development of the atomic bomb, where a uranium atom is split, during World War II.

    "and I can end the planet in a holocaust" - Adolf Hitler. Professor Michael Fitzgerald examined the life of Adolf Hitler, the German Nazi dictator of the 1930s and '40s, and concluded that he expressed aspects that proved he was autistic.
  • In a Songfacts interview with Jonny 5, he described this song as "both very poppy and catchy and actually speak to something deeper the more you listen to it."

Comments: 33

  • Gandolf from Middle EarthI work in the behavioral health field, I don't see the autism spectrum connection this guy is trying to make?!?! Seems like the rise to power by a person becoming more and more megalomaniac to me?
  • AnonymousI think the song is about two friends who grew up together going seperate ways one is good guy who uses his power to help while one uses it to take over the world.
  • AnonymousI think this song is about the journey of two different people. It showed in the video two different people who started out at 2 people who were friends and that both went down different paths. One is leading people and the other is hiding behind the podium behind his army as they march towards him.
  • Zack from IllinoisOne of my favs seen video 50 times and watching again today right at the beginning there are two forks in the road. Left wing communist with a "c" on the road sign and right wing with a bird's picture. Never thought of Hitler til I noticed that. Clearly verification of the song meaning.
  • Joey from CanadaSorry, but someone is trying to attribute the quote "I can take apart the remote control, and I can almost put it back together..." to Thomas Edison?? The remote control was invented in 1950. Thomas Edison did in 1931.
  • Jason from Tampa, FlIf you watch the video, you see how it is actually how one man has many desires as he comes into the world. He appears to be of about college age and at the critical moment where he realizes that he can make his own choices and he needs to choose what he wants to do. He starts out exploring both sides of his desire, which is to help people. He has the path of helping people with direct contact and staying down on their level of power. On the other hand, he can help them by increasing technology. However, the power and money from this side of him draws his attention. As he explores more into this attribute, he realizes that he has a way with words. He comes to power and works to "help" by increasing security and public safety. But as his technology falls into the wrong hands, he watches as the people that he was trying to help suddenly turn against him. In this moment, he realizes what is actually happening, that people are starving and are afraid to venture outside of their homes because of the privacy issue in the country, but it is too late to stop it. He watches as the side of himself that was gentle and caring is killed and can no longer be present within his own life because to show compassion at this point would be considered "weak" in a leader. As these thoughts roll through his brain, he relives a time where things were simpler and he was still free.
  • Ben Miller from Parts UnknownThe EP this song was originally appeared in was called "Platypus", not handlebars.
  • Megan from Stevenson, AlI love this! When this came out, me and my friends were singing this anytime we got the chance! I love the trumpet solo! Awesome.
  • Alberto from Scarsdale, Fl, United KingdomThe song "Handlebars" is about a boy who grows up and shows his potential as he ages while gaining power. The song starts with the narrator saying "I can ride my bike with no handlebars" he is showing his youth: He is showing off his ability to do something "cool" and maybe a little out of the ordinary. On the third verse the narrator talks about how things are going good from him and how "it's good to be alive". He continues to explain that he almost do anything, which is beginning to show the narrators individual ability, and his growing of power. However near the end of the third verse the rapper changes a bit; normally he only talks about him self, but then he says, "Me and my friend [...]" which is odd, not only because it is grammatically incorrect, but because through out the whole song nearly every line has started with him basically saying I can do this, I can do that. However there is no reasonable explanation as to why this is, henceforth the artist probably mentions his friends only for the sake of keeping the songs catchy beat. Further more in the forth verse the narrator goes back to his independent ways by "keep[ing] rhythm with no metronome". The only sane explanation, which still pushes it, is that he tried opening up to others, but obviously it didn't work out. After-all, its only two lines out of one hundred and five line song... Now back to a more sane idea; in the third verse the musician says that he, "saw a platypus". First off I am envois, but with that set a side, seeing a platypus is extremely rare, this is starting to show how he is starting to feel above everyone. After all most of the verse is about the narrator boasting about how, for lack of a better word, great he is. In the sixth verse the narrator explains how he has to potential to do anything. Weather its "open[ing] up a thrift store open up a thrift store" or can mak[ing] a living off a magazine". Final, by the end of the eighth verse. The narrator feels that he can lead "a nation with a microphone". The narrator is turning into a dictator, and is ruling over a nation. However a nation isn't quite enough for the narrator, so he continues exploring ways he can abuse his power. In the ninth verse the narrator finds a way: he clams that he "can split the atoms of a molecule". In short simple terms: BOOOOOOMMMMMM. The narrator either treating to blow up the world, or wants to go to war. Obviously some one is a little jealous of Dr. Yoshio Nishina (the inventor to the atom bomb). The narrator is pretty much on top. He is "[d]riving and won't stop" until he is on top of the world. Final the song ends with the narrator calming that he "can end the planet in a holocaust". The narrator repeats this five times, but normally he only repeats phrases twice. Wile the repetition maybe used as a MacGuffin, it is more likely that it is used to show that the narrator coming to his end of power. From riding his bike to being able to make atom bombs, the narrator shows that as individuals we have the potential to do anything.
  • David from Los Angeles, CaReally? Brandon from Illinois got the top interpretation in this? This song is about the duality of man. The first half of the song, prior to the instrumental part describes the positive sides of humanity e.g. science, technology, general ingenuity etc. The second half describes the dark side of man and abuse of these powers e.g. guided missiles, dictatorial control, mass murder. This song isn't the life of a dictator's rise to power by any means. "Handlebars", being the song title and ending of the song just signifies of man's journey can start so simply and lead into different directions.
  • Matt from Ottawa, OnI think about the Evil Corporations man........
  • Dylan from Ottawa, KsThe song is about people having similar attitudes when they were children as to when they are adults. The child in the song learns, and eventually finds out something he shouldn't have learned, how to split the atom.
  • Anthony from Morton, Pai love this song, usally i dont like this kind of music, i like 60s rock, and somehow this song is jsut amazing to me
  • Tanja from Schweinfurt, Germanywhen i heard the song for the first time i have to admit that i was a bit disappointed because the lyrics promised to me a loud music with a lot of agression. But after listening to it again and again i began to like it more because then i got aquainted with the deeper meaning of the depicted things...and now i can promise, that it's worth to grapple with it :)
  • Manuela from Donnersdorf, GermanyA song that deals with current events, I like that!
  • Tim from Schweinfurt, GermanyA very good song in my opinion. I like the style of music and whats even more important the text is deep and has a message.
  • Val from Des Moines, IaThis song makes me feel like I'm the only one who can do the this I do.
  • Madison from Northford, CtWhen analyzing the song and then the video they can be seen as having different meanings. the video can get you caught up in the story line of the two friends, as many others here have pointed out, but the song itself is much deeper. After listening to the song a few times I finally figured out, to me, what it meant, which is exactly what MC Jonny told MTV News in the last songfact. People are born with the ability and potential to do SO much, whether that be good or bad. In today's society there just happens to be a lot of bad, and that is really depressing. People need to take a step back and look at the big picture and all the good they could accomplish if they only tried.
  • Erin from Honolulu, HiI think that this song can be interpreted in many different ways. IMO, this song is basically on how society is corrupting minds of innocent kids.

    In the beginning of the video when they're riding their bikes without handlebars, I think that it shows their innocence, and just how carefree and happy they were just riding bikes around. Also, it shows how well they get along even though the blond seems of a higher class then the redhead. (business attire, stern looking face) When they go their separate ways, the redhead sees that his friend is now a hotshot politician and is making nuclear bombs and things. It looks like he's getting caught up in the fame, and not thinking about the important things in life. The redhead sees that and gets mad. He decides to rebel against his friend with the whole holocaust thing. At the end, the blond shoots the redhead and his friends, not knowing who they are. After he shoots him, he realizes who he is and he thinks back to when they were young and so innocent and carefree. I think that this song is trying to say that the media now days are corrupting the minds of innocent children with so much violence these days.

    Everyone has a different opinion though.
  • Cory from Victor, NyThe song to me is a normal guy who learns to do things and eventually gets to full of himself and becomes a dictator. kinda sounds like hitler eh?
  • Tyler from Green Bay, WiAnd then in the end, when he repeats "i can ride my bike with no handle bars" it's like the one who killed the other is like reminiscing about when they were friends
  • Tyler from Green Bay, WiTo me it's like one of the guys is like a free-spirited guy who loves life and everything, cuz all the things he says he can do are the fun things, while the other guy is a politician and is all high strung and stuff cuz all things he says he can do has to do with politics and the world
  • John from Houston , Txthis song explains whats wong with this world and the things anyones capable of.
  • Airk from Skagway, AkAccording to the video, in my understanding is two young friends are riding their bikes without handlebars. Then they both move out I'm guessing and go their seperate ways where one becomes a corrupt politician.(redundant) and the other just enjoys life. And towards the end when the politician leads planet in a holocaust his childhood friend gets shot, leaving the politician with a sad look on his face realizing that in his lust for power, he lost a person that mattered to him. I'm assuming that the morale is that power can corrupt you and destroy everything you care for, and you don't even realize it until it's too late!
  • Matt from Livonia, MiITS AMAZING
  • Daniel from Jacksonville, Flthis song is creepy b/c of the music vid.......i seen it b4 i actually heard the song and its like weird, i dunno how to describe it.

    but i like this song tho.....lol
  • Garrett from Austin, TxThis song is about two friends. In the beginning, they're both together riding bikes without handlebars. Then they go in different directions and take turns calling eachother and telling about their lives. One of them is a fun-loving person and the other is a serious businessman. Slowly they stop talking and forget about eachother until the serious one becomes a famous politician who becomes corrupted with power. Then his old friend remembers him and disagrees with his views. He leads a rebellion against the other man. He leads a march into one of the politician's speaches about starting a holocaust and the gaurds slaughter all the protesters. But then the politician notices his friend and realizes what he's done. He then remembers how things used to be before he took over the world, and he starts singing, "I can ride my bike with no handlebars..."
  • Brian from Dnever, CoThere is no known beat that can keep me lonely
  • Brian from Dnever, CoThis song isn't "about" anybody. it signifies human beings endless possibilities and how we choose to use them. Either for good "i can hand out a million vaccinations" or for evil" I can end the planet in a holocaust." and you should see them live. great shows.
  • Slycawt from New York, United KingdomIn the music video it starts as two boys, a red haired dirty boy and a well dressed blond haired boy. The dirty boy never went anywhere in his life while the blond haired boy grows up to be succesful and eventually takes over the world. The two boys are against eachother in the end even though they were two friends or brothers.
  • Rick from Safety Harbor,It seems to me that this is a walk through life. At the beginning they brag about the simple things in a boys mind. Riding with no handlebars... the two friends lives go in different directions... the future politician has noble beginnings, but power corrupts... the other is a partier... (cherry stem) loves life... not successful by the world's standards of measurement.... He finds purpose later in life... but doesn't have the power to influence change...
  • Jenny from York, PaTo me, this song is accomplsishing something simple in your life and then broadening your horizons for accomplish things. Maybe some things that you thought impossible, or other people have. Sort of like that book by Dr. Suess "And to think that I saw it on Mulberry street". The song starts out as something little, like riding a bike with no handlebars and evolves into things wild and unimaginable. :)
  • Ian from Collegeville, PaThis song, along with the rest of the songs on this album, is very deep and deals with current events, not just things that society deems as "cool."
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