Profanity Prayers
By: Beck Hansen

Written by: Beck Hansen

  1. Profanity Prayers (3:43)
    Available on Modern Guilt.
    Recorded at: Anonyme Studios
    Beck Hansen: Bass, Guitar (Acoustic), Guitar (Electric), Guitar (Slide), Producer, Vocals
    Danger Mouse: Beats, Producer
    Drew Brown: Engineer
  2. Profanity Prayers (acoustic) (4:21)
    Available on Modern Guilt acoustic.
    Bram Inscore: Bass
    Brian Lebarton: Cello
    Joey Waronker: Drums
    Beck Hansen: Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
    Jessica Dobson: Guitar (Acoustic)
Unofficial Versions: [show/hide]
  1. Profanity Prayers (The VPOs Remix) (3:28)
    The Volt per Octaves: Remix
Profanity Prayers [Version (a)]:

In a cast iron cage
You couldn't help but stare like a creature
With the laws of a brothel
And the fireproof bones of a preacher
And your lingo coined
From the sacrament of a casino
On a government loan
With a guillotine in your libido

Who's gonna answer profanity prayers?
Who's gonna answer profanity prayers?

Well you know how it looks
When you pull all your books from the table
And you stare into space
Trying to discern what to say now
And you wait at the light
And watch for a sign that you're breathing
'Cause you can't just live on air
And float to the ceiling

Who's gonna answer profanity prayers?
Who's gonna answer profanity prayers?

Who's gonna answer profanity prayers?
Who's gonna answer profanity prayers?
The Song:

"Profanity Prayers" can be found on Modern Guilt. A driving rock song, with lots of cool touches--that atmospheric break into some slide guitar into pounding drums sequence is one of my favorites.

I really like Beck's creative rhymes here (creature/preacher, casino/libido, etc.). The song seems to be about a man looking for answers, but perhaps in a non-religous way? The first verse places him "in a cast iron cage," "with the laws of a brothel," in a casino, on borrowed dime. He is clearly not in a place of happiness. It is more a place of profanity.

Now obviously one usually thinks of "profanity" as vulgarity, and that could be true here, but I reckon Beck is using a different meaning (albeit related). lists one of the definitions of "profanity" as "not devoted to holy or religious purposes; unconsecrated; secular (opposed to sacred)." That sounds to me like the first verse; a person trapped in a secular, non-sacred spot, and calling out from there.

It feels like to me that the search though is given up entirely in the second verse. Maybe nobody answers profanity prayers? The books are tossed, and he can't figure out what to say anymore. He is left simply waiting, watching "for a sign that you're breathing."

I've never quite sussed these lyrics out entirely, I'll be honest. But there are some ideas in this that I dig. This is easily one of Beck's more underrated songs.

Played live 16 times:
Earliest known live version: June 9, 2008
Latest known live version: March 26, 2009

Beck never played "Profanity Prayers" with any regularity on the Modern Guilt tour. In 2008-2009, it showed up 16 times, like 2-3 times every month he went out on the road.

It has not been played since.