Round here they sing broken hymns
Their prayers flow better when they're soaked in gin
This line draws a comparison between churches and bars, suggesting that those devout alcoholics that frequent bars have a similar allegiance to their bars as would a religious person to their place of worship. The broken hymns are drinking songs. Broken because the patrons slur their words the more they drink and pay tribute to their “place of worship”, the prayers Macklemore is referring to are the honest conversations that are held by visitors to the bar and here Macklemore alludes to how people are most honest when drunk, much like how prayers meant to be an honest exchange with God.
This is a great way to introduce the song; another thing you might throw in here is that in this song Macklemore reverses the (in)famous claim by political economist Karl Marx that religion is the opiate of the masses. Here is the full quote: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
Marx suggests that religion acts like a drug, giving people both hope but also a reason to accept oppression in this world by hoping for better conditions in the next. Macklemore expresses a similar sentiment here, as he suggests that alcohol acts like a religion (hence “neon cathedral”), giving people hope but also making them dependent, thereby making their life arguably even worse. I think it’s a pretty interesting inversion …
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