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Exploring "Join The Dots"

Started by SueC, August 06, 2019, 14:28:23

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OK, I'm ready to write about this, but in dribs and drabs, because it's going to be a long one!

A (repeated) heads-up:  This isn't a review, it's a personal open-journalling exercise in response to the material on Join The Dots.

As mentioned in a "preview" post above - in fact so far above, owing to lengthy scenic side trips, I'll put in a link:  ...I really like this CD, and there's lots to talk about. There is only one song on it I actively dislike, for personal reasons, and I'll explain why when I get to it.

I will be working chronologically through the CD, starting with the opener Home, which I prefer to its A-side both musically and lyrically, being the ornery individual I am.  :evil:  :angel

So, Robert Smith has a way of writing about love relationships which is sometimes really lovely, sometimes alarming, sometimes exasperating, and sometimes capable of generating a fair bit of cognitive dissonance in me personally - and sometimes I'm not entirely clear on which of these it is, or something else.  For discussion of an alarming example, see here:

Also, I've just read and responded to a thread which deals with some of that dissonance: - and I think that this is going to impact on the way I'm going to look at Home today, in that I'm not just going to discuss its most charitable interpretation - a man, perhaps after an attack of foot-in-mouth disease, writing a cathartic piece about the frustrations of trying to communicate something important-but-difficult-to-verbalise to their partner, and having it all backfire.

But to have the miscommunication backfire to the point that your partner is crying does make me wonder if the context has something to do with the tears - rather than just the verbal bumbling.  As people far removed from someone else's personal situation, we don't get the context, unless it's specifically (and fully, and honestly) presented to us - and that's not something we usually get, or should expect to get.

However, stuff like this does make you generally think about relationships, which is a good thing.  So, I'm going to discuss a few general relationship scenarios which would make tears and disappointment natural when someone is trying to say something they seem to feel is nice to you.  I'd like to do that in the context of these lyrics:

Every time I try to tell you how I feel inside
I always make the same mistake
Tie myself in knots
Sometimes even make you cry
When all I ever want to say
Is "Nobody else in the whole wide world
Makes me feel this way...
Nobody else in the whole wide world
Takes my breath away"

Makes me feel so strange inside
Dazed, confused and starry-eyed
I couldn't love you more

Makes me feel the wrong way round
Inside out and upside down
I couldn't love you more

And every time I try to tell you what I really mean
Nothing seems to come out right
And I end up murmuring foolishly it makes me want to scream
How I get so stupefied

On the one hand, this could simply be a case of, "Here it is, I've managed to write down the words I wanted, and what I was unable to say face to face before."

On the other, both a difficult context and even the actual words could potentially lead to disappointment.

Let's take as a "difficult context" example a relationship where there has been infidelity, for whatever reason.  In a situation like that, if your straying partner tries to sweet-talk you with lofty words, it could have the opposite effect to what would happen in a context not involving infidelity - and yet, sometimes people don't get this, probably because lacking the empathy to put themselves emotionally in the position of their hurt partner.

Adopt, as a mental exercise, those two different contexts.  Context 1, no infidelity, generally happy relationship, and your partner writes you the words cited above.  Context 2, infidelity has been a part of the package, you're still raw, and your partner writes you those words - how are you feeling, in each scenario?  How are you responding?  (You can invent and respond to other hypothetical contexts as well.  Contexts vary, and are always important in how someone's words are received.)

As people aren't clones, I'd expect a range of answers to the above hypotheticals.

The purpose of these hypotheticals is not to speculate on the personal life of the writer, but to learn something about context, about the complexities of relationships, and about ourselves as individuals.

Leaving the discussion of context (which we could spend pages on alone), I'd now like to explain how the words from the song above could make me uneasy if they were directed at me, in a relationship not involving infidelity.  It's because while they are very sweet, they also represent a kind of immature vision of love - love as "you make me feel wonderful in all these different ways" - and that's very much "I love ice-cream, it makes me feel so wonderful" love - it's what's not being said that's the problem here.  It's love entirely from the perspective of the benefits of you to me, what you can do for me, of what your effect is on my feelings - it's very one-sided, and very limited.  It's not about how I love trying to enrich your own experience and quality of life because I love you, or about how I love your values and principles and integrity and humour and the things you're trying to do with your life, and how I want to support you in that; and how I love that this is also how you see me, and how you look at me, and how you support me.

By the way, the "I love ice-cream, it makes me feel so wonderful" aspect is a part of mature love as well, it's just that it's only one aspect of love, and it's a real problem if that's all you've got (or if that's all you're going to say).

I understand that a song is not a PhD, it's a necessarily quite limited vehicle length-wise for trying to express something you're focusing on at a particular time - it's more of a short story, and less of a novel, and therefore, sometimes you just can't explore more than just a tiny aspect of something complicated.

Having said that, I'd have fewer concerns about this take on love, because it's a bit more multifaceted:

This is coming from a person in their mid-20s, and I'm taking that into account here - because even with this song, some of the lyrics and concepts would worry me if they were directed at me - most of all, the "save my soul" bit - your partner is not your rescuer, you're each responsible for your own soul, your own self - but of course it's OK to acknowledge how others are helpful to you on top of your own sincere efforts to deal with your life.

By the way, both these singers are people who met their life partners in high school and report happy marriages of 30-plus years at this end of history, which is quite a feat.  And they're also both singers who wrote songs as presents for their wives, and I happen not to particularly like either of the most famous of these songs - not Lovesong (why here and not The Sweetest Thing, which I find terribly saccharine.  I'm generally uncomfortable with "you make me feel..." stuff as well, because often it raises the spectre of co-dependency (or at least your partner as a fairground ride) and I want to see more than that, like an understanding of personal responsibility for the self, or love that's more than ice-cream love, before I can get enthusiastic about it.

Perhaps that's why instrumentals usually convey love better for me.  ;)

And I've not even talked about the musical aspects of the song Home yet - the pace of it, the inclusion of strings (or faux strings, I might need a hearing aid), etc etc.

But, isn't it great when songs make us think - and think for ourselves, instead of defer to others. :heart-eyes  Amongst the greatest gifts you can give other people are unconditional love (with boundaries, of course) -  and encouraging them to learn, and to think, thoroughly, critically, independently and fearlessly.

More later.
SueC is time travelling


Quote from: SueC on November 05, 2019, 06:26:02And I've not even talked about the musical aspects of the song Home yet - the pace of it, the inclusion of strings (or faux strings, I might need a hearing aid), etc

As far as I remember, the band used "real" strings during the recording of "Wild Mood Swings", thus (of course) any b-sides from that era should have a real string quartet on them too!

(Found this info from "discogs":
Strings [String Quartet] - Audrey Riley, Chris Tombling, Leo Payne, Sue Dench)

Personally, I thought these strings gave some of the songs a "depth" which otherwise wouldn't be there. (If you listen to older tracks, e.g. "Sinking", the band often used keyboards and made them sound like strings, thus it was a good idea to use real strings in my opinion.)
Can't you see I try? Swimming the same deep water as you is hard...


Thank you very much for digging that up, @Ulrich! :)  I was pretty sure they used real strings but have misplaced the sleeve notes from Wild Mood Swings - twenty years from now, I'll probably find them in an obscure book (I have a bad habit of making things I shouldn't into impromptu bookmarks).  And for this exercise here, I've avoided going online to look stuff up because I'd rather not have too much information / song interpretations etc, to affect my first run through.  I generally enjoy the riddles, and then look up alternative hypotheses / interviews later to see what I've missed. :)

Generally speaking, real strings have more personality than synth imitation, but that can be increasingly hard to pick because the imitations are becoming better all the time, and if it's just backing with fairly even playing, and you're listening on an iPod and dealing with the evils of data compression and on-the-run headphones... That's how I have to do a lot of it during the working day - using the proper sound system is an after-hours luxury... I'm currently doing bushfire safety preparations which is standard for this time of year in Australia, and mowing and pruning fire risks away while listening to music and then coming in during coffee breaks to write about the music...

I agree very much that strings can potentially add a lot of depth to songs, and they do to Home, and to my favourite tracks off Wild Mood Swings - namely Jupiter Crash and Treasure. long as the violinists stay off the E-strings... ;)  ...much torture has been caused to my ears by screechy E-strings and screechy sopranos engaged in vibrato at the high end...  :1f629:

I like the feel of those particular songs from the Wild Mood Swings sessions, as well as their themes.  I generally like the album as a whole too, just I avoid two tracks on it like the plague, namely Mint Car and The 13th.  I knew Mint Car from "before" - from the radio - and have never liked that song, and in part it's like generally enjoying ee cummings' poetry but really disliking she being Brand-new; Mint Car reminds me of that poem, and in itself has features I don't care for, and isn't music I like.  :expressionless:  The 13th, I really don't enjoy the theme of that at all, plus when I hear the music, I feel like I'm being attacked by a horde of loud Hawaiian shirts.  But I'm sure someone else enjoys pineapple, and it's easy enough post cassettes and vinyl to skip tracks that give you a rash.

We're currently playing The Top a fair bit after acquiring it last year, and both enjoying the Eastern sounds on it, and I actually really love the title track off that album.  But neither of us liked the B-sides from that on CD-1.  Funny how that goes.  I generally like good bands' B-sides as much as their main material, because I generally like experimental stuff, and to hear another side to someone's music - traditionally a less commercially viable side which I often find is a plus for the sound.  For instance, I've enjoyed most of the post-mid-80s Cure B-sides I've heard, and many of U2's B-sides from all sorts of eras, and also I love the Fisherman's Blues outtakes stuff from Mike Scott - the Too Close To Heaven CD - particularly The Ladder is just cartwheel-inducing as a track...  :angel

Ah well, back to mowing and some more B-sides, I suppose...
SueC is time travelling


Next-up on CD-4 is Waiting, which seems to me to most likely be a song about missing your home and your spouse during work-related travels (/touring).  I like the way the words to that are written; the imagery used, the sketchiness of it.  There's a bit of reflecting and trying to make sense of the world and the self:

But if I don't believe in magic
And I don't believe in blood
And I don't believe in miracles
And I don't believe in love
Then how come I believe so soon
In a cherry tree girl
And a dust blue room?

...Then how come I believe it seems
In a girl called Home
And a world called dreams?

So the first three references - magic, blood, miracles - are commonly associated with Christianity, but also with voodoo etc, and general woo-woo (draw your Venn diagram of these any way you like).  Love is more widely contested as a general theme, and it's pretty sad to not believe in it, but I guess that depends on your definition of what it is, and your personal context.  Generally I would say that love is something I value (if not "believe in" - on reflection) personally, but I see love more as a doing thing, a caring thing and general respect and personal responsibility for your own stuff, than a whole bunch of pink emotional clouds, or something that's going to come along and save you, and solve all your problems - whether that be in a religious or a romantic context, which is where "love as rescue" is most commonly applied.  That kind of stuff I'm not so keen on.  I'd probably have to write a lengthy essay to explore that properly, but I'm really not in the mood for that right now.

Once, on my home forum, a friend started a topic, "Do You Believe In Love?" and unfortunately, not only was the context pink and fluffy, but she also posted the Huey Lewis & The News track of the same name, which I loathe.  She then tried very hard to get a "yes" out of me and I just couldn't give it to her, wouldn't.  I spent quite a while discussing definitions, assumptions and implications; talking about how the Greeks have multiple words for various aspects of it, like the Inuit have many words for snow, and how that is actually really helpful for avoiding misunderstandings.  I can't sign up for the way that term is commonly used either in trashy pop songs or religion.  (I will make the distinction that I was fine with Martin Luther King's working model of love and the way he defined various aspects of it in his book Strength To Love, and also with much of the take on it in the gospels - that was far, far less dysfunctional than what was being displayed to me in my family of origin, or in much of wider society.)

I think though that rather than toss a word or concept out because it's much abused, it's better to reclaim it, and to explain very clearly what this does and does not mean for you.

So, our protagonist above doesn't believe in magic, blood, miracles or love, but somehow believes in home and his girl (if I'm re-phrasing that correctly, and this may not be what was intended, of course), and wonders why this is so.

OK, I'm going to be naughty here and say that the protagonist seems to be something of an empiricist, and that the proof of the pudding has been in the eating. :angel

Anyway, it's a nice little contemplation on life, the universe and everything, and again something to make you think as a listener as well.  For me, that's always a sort of unavoidable reflex - trying to figure out other people's values, working hypotheses (/dogmas in the less astute) etc and then comparing notes.

Musically, I found this track fairly neutral - it didn't particularly grab me, but it didn't particularly repel me either.  However, the next track... well, that's the track I was referring to earlier when I said there was one track on this CD I actively dislike.

A Pink Dream has several features which pretty much guarantee I'm going to run from a room making retching noises if I can't turn it off or hold my ears shut.  I have pretty intense emotional and visceral reactions to music, which is wonderful if I'm listening to stuff I really enjoy, but conversely also very trying if I'm in a place where stuff is getting piped over a PA and I can do nothing about it and something that horrifies me comes on.

With A Pink Dream - yes, I did make myself listen to it several times over to be fair, and that had about the same effect as getting stung by a bee if you're already sensitised - it just exacerbated my reaction to it with each listen, so now I don't.  The very start instantly turns my stomach with its suction noises - one of my pet hates is having to listen to other people's real or simulated body-function noises - I always feel they should go see a doctor or get a room, whichever is more applicable.

There's just nothing about this particular track I like, and much that gives me a rash - the suction noises, the music, the lyrics, some of the implications.  There's ways of reminiscing about old flames that make songs I enjoy, and ways of doing that which I really don't.  The old Fleetwood Mac track Gypsy is an example I enjoy, as is Suzanne Vega's track of the same name, as is her Songs In Red And Gray, as is Jackson Browne's In The Shape Of A Heart, and Paul Kelly's Winter Coat, to name a few.  All of those tracks have a grace and a thoughtfulness to them which A Pink Dream decidedly lacks.

I'll close with one of them.  Paul Kelly may not be very well known outside of Australia, so this is a good opportunity to share.  This isn't his best thing musically, but he's always an excellent lyricist and story-teller.

More next time.
SueC is time travelling


This brings us to This Is A Lie - a lovely ambient version of the song, where the string arrangements really come to the fore, and everything sounds gorgeous and profound.

But, I'm going to debate its lyrics big time.

There's already a prelude to the following discussion of the lyrics of This Is A Lie here:

I'm going to re-post here my responses to that thread, and then expand on those.

♦ ♥ ♦

Quote from: undefinedIn "This Is a Lie", one of the most sombre songs on "Wild Mood Swings", you describe life as a lie. You sing that every love relationship is a lie, since by choosing one person, you deny everyone else in the world, without being able to know if you have made the right choice or not. That you only pretend, all the way until the end. Is this something that you feel very strongly or is this only a thought?

It is something that I feel strongly since I don't think it can be any other way. It is like that. No one can be sure. But you can't walk around thinking about it either, you would become insane...

It's been interesting reading everyone's discussion on this topic over the years!  :smth023

I just wanted to say that I personally very much disagree with the idea that a love relationship is somehow a lie just because it's not the only one of all the possibilities that might have worked out for you.  I think that part is a given - like a few of you have mentioned, I don't believe in a "soul mate" either, but I do think people can be right for each other, sufficiently compatible so that they're not going to be driven up the wall by, for example, one person being a neat freak and the other leaving their crap all over the place, or one person being a leftie and another a far-right Neo-Nazi, or one person being interested in self-education and the other a total anti-intellectual - things like that (and obviously then some).

I think it's a given that there is more than one person in the world who would potentially be right for you.  If you're conventional, you have a statistical advantage for bumping into someone who will work for you.  If you're a bit of a black sheep, finding such a person can be a bit like searching for a needle in a haystack, and that was very much the case for my husband and me - we didn't meet until our mid-30s, and then only with the help of a good database that assisted in searching for outliers.

But we're not each other's only possible theoretical matchups.  So what?  We're very happy.  We don't spend a millisecond wondering if we could be marginally happier with somebody else.  That's like not fully enjoying a really fantastic book because you're worried that you should be reading some other book that's marginally more fantastic that you happen not to have come across.  Or that the wonderful song you're listening to is potentially less wonderful than some other song you happen not to have heard.  Or that you're wasting your time with the lovely dog you've got because you could theoretically have a better dog. Or that the A+ essay you're reading is perhaps surpassed by something else out there and that this other thing would somehow be more worthy of your time.  (These analogies are limited analogies for the situation, but do illustrate a point that also applies to that situation.) To me, thinking like that is self-defeating, and kind of insane.

Anyway, the book, or song, or dog, or partner you're enjoying isn't a lie because you might be enjoying another book, or song, or dog, or partner that you don't have in front of you.  You make choices - hopefully well-informed choices - and that's a valuable part of the whole story.  I'm way more interested in living the life I have than belly-aching over the lives I could have had.

And marriage, to us, was saying, "You mean enough to me that I actually don't want to explore other alternative paths, but get to know this particular path really well - and that I want to get to know you better than anyone else in the world; and this means more to me than all that philosophical analysis on the merits of alternative possibilities."

People think monogamy is such a chore, and we don't find it so at all - to us it's the privilege of getting to know each other far more deeply than anyone playing the field can get to know any of their partners.  It's saying, "You are worth that to me."  It's having someone say that to you.  It's working towards common goals, as a team.  It's making memories in common, and as the years go by, looking at where you've been together as human beings, like travellers looking at photo albums of their trips.  It's looking at how you've had to grow as people to accommodate each other, what you've learnt about yourself and the other person, how difficulties you've had have forced you to become a better you.  All sorts of things like that, and all of them valuable, and none of them a lie, or a pretence.

Who here has heard of Buridan's Ass?  It's the classic idea of a hungry donkey starving to death between two equally attractive bales of hay, unable to make up its mind about which one to eat.  Real donkeys don't do that, nor do they have philosophical conniptions when they're tucking into good-quality hay...

This is Sparkle, who's not worried about whether this bale of hay is a lie, just because it's not the only bale of hay in the world that is compatible with her.  She's fully enjoying her hay, and is pretending nothing.  :angel

Quote from: Chain Of Flowers on December 30, 2008, 16:08:29It's interesting how different people interpret Cure songs, and the fact that the songs can mean something different to so many people is one of the things that makes them special.

I never really thought of 'This Is A Lie' in a way that would make a wife raise her eyebrows at all (I'd expect that from 'Watching Me Fall' or 'Open').  I saw that song as one of those wondering concept tracks like a lot of what Bloodflowers is, just wondering about life and why we all play the role we play.  That line about losing everyone else in the world I took as the fact that some day we'll all be gone, therefore nobody stays around forever.

I think my initial reading of This Is A Lie was more along the lines of COF's reading - especially about losing everyone else in the world, which made me think about how we will all lose each other to mortality eventually - and that kind of thing serves as a memento mori to me, and helps to stop me taking things for granted, or wasting time.  I've sometimes wondered how much procrastination would be going on if all of us lived eternally.  "Oh, I'm not getting out of bed until next year."  - "I want to learn a musical instrument; I guess I'll book in for 300 years from now." - "Oh, I can do that tomorrow / next year / next century / next millennium."

When lyrics or poems are sufficiently murky, reading them can be like reading tea leaves!  ;)  And in that case, I think we're all going to look first of all at meanings that make the most sense to us personally.

I remember a couple of weeks ago I had a bee in my bonnet because of another Cure song I'd listened to, and then when I re-listened to This Is A Lie I said, "Oh, I could also read it as a whine about relationships / angsting about not having the most perfect of all the theoretical possibilities!  Like, "What I have is really excellent, but what if..." and I've got to say, I want to shake people like that, make them spend time in a slum in India with an extreme deformity that means no chance of any romantic partner whatsoever, let them experience some existential problems which are on an entirely different order of magnitude to what Western people with a happy marriage and stable financial arrangements and good friends and nice surroundings experience - and then maybe bring them back after ten years or so, and see how they feel then. :evil:

By the way, I think Watching Me Fall is sufficiently murky that you could read it so it's not necessarily about an extramarital affair - e.g., my husband and I regularly have affairs with each other - and we can play on the joke by one of us, or both of us, not wearing our rings.  Of course, every relationship is different, and I'd hate to extrapolate from our relationship to anyone else's...

♦ ♥ ♦

So, adding to that:

Sometimes, a song stays quite unobtrusive if you listen to it on the run - and this was the case for me with This Is A Lie, until I recently started putting the lyrics under the microscope and thinking about them deliberately and critically.  It was double-taking at another Cure song I was listening to, which made me go back and re-examine This Is A Lie from a different angle.  Instead of viewing it as benign philosophising, as it's possible to do when you're half-listening while working on outdoors tasks, I started to realise that this song represents a world view I have very little in common with, and find ill-considered.

A running commentary on the lyrics:

How each of us decides
I've never been sure
The part we play
The way we are

So far, so good.  That's something really worth examining. But go on to examine it, don't just emote about it and go around in circles! So much has been written about these exact topics in general philosophy, and different cultures have different takes on stuff like that - it's fascinating, and rich, and a good bit of immersion in this material is highly recommended for anyone, to get to know yourself better, to learn to navigate life better, become aware of assumptions and autopilots.  The problem is, most of us are railroaded by our social surrounds, and it takes a fair bit of thinking and swimming against the tide to start actually living life more deliberately and consciously and more in line with the things we value personally.  If you don't decide actively how you want to live and how you want to be, and really work on those things, those decisions will largely be made for you because you'll just be going along one of the paths of least resistance, with the rest of the mob.

An excellent online resource for dipping your toes in this kind of stuff:

How each of us denies any other way in the world

I can read that two ways.  One of them, the more benign reading, is the idea that every yes you give is an automatic no to something else, because you're so limited by available time and energy and resources.  (And therefore, you should consider very carefully what you say yes to.)  But I don't think that's what the writer means in this case, looking at the whole of these lyrics.

I do take issue with the generalising in the cited line above, and in the lyrics as a whole.  You can't automatically extrapolate from your own life to other people's, or tar everybody with the same brush. The fact that we live in a particular way - whether largely considered or largely autopilot - doesn't necessarily mean we deny any other way in the world.  Sure, whatever path you take in life over whatever roads you choose will exclude other paths - so choose carefully, and keep navigating carefully.  But, this doesn't mean you necessarily deny the other paths - you may even be learning from them, like each time you, for example, pick up a serious book and get vicarious experience of someone else's path.

I'm just finding the way of thinking espoused in these lyrics too closed, too generalised, and pretty self-defeating.

Why each of us must choose
I've never understood
One special friend
One true love

I don't know where the narrator gets the idea that each of us must choose the things he purports we must choose.  Many people choose quite different things.  If monogamy doesn't agree with you, then be polyamorous or whatever else - but be honest about it.  Nobody is, these days, in Western society, that compelled to choose from narrow social mores.  You're not a victim of the system here, you're responsible for making your own choices.

Why each of us must lose everyone else in the world

This line either goes with the above, or can be considered separately - and I used to consider it separately, and wrote about that on the other thread (excerpt was included above).

But, it seems from that discussion and from the interview excerpts, it actually was really intended to go with the preceding three lines, and that the writer considers the act of choosing one relationship the loss of every other potential relationship, which is kind of silly when you think about the fact that you couldn't get around to everyone else who would agree to have you anyway even if you didn't choose just one person - which nobody is making you do... It's sort of like the Monty Python parody called "Every Sperm Is Sacred" - millions and millions of sperm on a daily basis from just one male, and yet only a very tiny fraction of them, if any, will ever actually go into making another individual, even if you had a thousand concubines, a roster to get around to them all, and a truckload of Viagra.  So, I'm not going to weep over the loss of all those potential genetic combinations, or the loss of all those potential love lives / that marginally better love life someone feels they are missing out on.  What I'm actually going to say is, get over yourself, and appreciate what you have, and perhaps think about what you're giving, as an antidote to what you think you're not getting.  It's funny how you get more out of life if you put more into it...

If you've got a healthy, functional, affectionate, alive, adventurous, fun, intellectually stimulating, mutually supportive relationship with a person you love and who loves you, just count your blessings.  It's kind of grating to be writing a song like that from that position, and not just for your partner.

However unsure
However unwise
Day after day play out our lives
However confused
Pretending to know to the end

If you're confused, and pretending, then the person you need to take to task is yourself. Why make a pretence of something you don't believe?  Why just fit your life into some kind of external mould like you're a piece of jelly - and then complain about it?  This is the very opposite of living authentically - of being true to yourself.  If you're going along with something you don't agree with, you're not offering an alternative take, just adding to the peer pressure for mindless conformity.

It's the pretending to know I have particular issues with, because it's lying to everyone else, and knowing it.

But this isn't truth this isn't right
This isn't love this isn't life this isn't real
This is a lie

I've seen this kind of leaping to unwarranted conclusions before, in How Beautiful You Are:

So, what is the truth?  What is right?  What is love?  What is real?  It's far more constructive to think about what those things mean to you, than to just say what they're not.

I can really, really see how the writer's wife was upset about this, because it smacks of self-indulgence and self-pity masquerading as philosophy, and because it's a completely disrespectful thing for a person who chose to get married to another person, and purports to be happily married, to say about their mutual life.  You sort of think, sheesh, maybe you ought to have had these thoughts before, and maybe you shouldn't have pretended, as you say... because that's dragging someone else into your crap. :evil:

How each of us believes
I've never really known
In heaven unseen and hell unknown

Apart from the over-generalising, which has been a consistent problem throughout, that's a fair enough thing to wonder.  But, the over-generalising is really starting to get old.  Not everyone believes in heaven and hell, in the religious sense.  You know what though, people can be really good at creating their own hell, for themselves and those close to them, with their attitudes.

How each of us dreams to understand anything at all

This isn't fair enough, this seems to be extrapolating from yourself to other people.  It is actually possible to understand some things - even William Berkeley, with his idea that all of reality was just a big matrix created by God and we were all just blobs of disembodied consciousness thinking we were physical beings in a physical world, thought there were some things you could definitely know.  Here's some basics:  1 + 1 = 2 (even though mathematics is a construct, its tenets are backed up by proofs and the system is internally consistent).  The earth revolves around the sun (unless you're going to argue that we're living in a big matrix and that these things are abstract ideas instead of physical realities).  You can make a green watercolour shade by mixing blue and yellow watercolours.  January is followed by February.

Epistemology (how anything can be known) is a really fascinating part of philosophy - I'd encourage anyone who's not looked at that to do themselves a big favour.  Accessible resources exist, and for a complete beginner, I'd recommend Jostein Gaarder's Sophie's World, and the Teach Yourself series book on Philosophy.

Why each of us decides
I've never been sure
The part we take
The way we are
Why each of us denies every other way in the world

However unsure
However unwise
Day after day play out our lives
However confused
Pretending to know to the end

But this isn't truth this isn't right
This isn't love this isn't life this isn't real
This is a lie
This isn't truth this isn't right
This isn't love this isn't life this isn't real
This is a lie

Etc etc, as had.  It's interesting how some close listening, and looking at an interview comment, can change the way you see a song.  I also think there's a danger, when you write a song like that, that you're going to be more likely to keep upholding a limiting point of view, or errors in reasoning, than if you hadn't, because you've sort of set it in stone, and it's a beautiful-sounding song, and each time you sing it, you're likely to reinforce that way of thinking.  This gets us into the psychology of previous investment, which is another interesting thing to consider - isn't it great that a massive library is at our fingertips in this day and age?

So, the art of disagreeing, and distinguishing between opinions/arguments and people.  I've got a bit of practice at that, having a number of friends who are religious fundamentalists, and deniers of anthropogenic climate change (and it's generally unproductive to discuss these things with them, and more productive to focus on positive things you can co-operate on).  Those are big differences, and it's my view that fundamentalism and climate change denial are especially difficult positions to uphold when examined rationally, but those friends give me plenty of reasons to respect and value them, and really deserve to be my friends.  So, I don't think it's necessary to look down on people who hold views we don't agree with.  I'm still learning lots of stuff, and I sometimes blanch at some of the things I believed in the past, and will most likely blanch again, but we're none of us born knowing anything, and we're all works in progress.

♦ ♥ ♦

I'm going to tack on another post-script, to talk a little about how I saw this song before I looked at it the way I do above.  Imagine for a moment you're seeing the Earth as a blue marble in space, and zooming in on it, and getting closer and closer until you can see individual rooftops in a city, and then you're swooping down into someone's lounge room looking at their TV screen, and it's the evening news.  It's madness, it's obscene - the wars, the feuds, the lies, the desecration of the planet and each other, the unimportant things held in high esteem, the important things that are trampled, the greed, the unkindness, the sociopaths in power in dictatorships but also in places where people actually vote for their leaders... etc.  How did it get like this?  And in the context of that, watching all that mess, it would be natural to wonder - and now I'm going to paraphrase part of those lyrics slightly differently, from the point of view of a visiting space alien, who says:

How people decide
I can't understand
The part they play
The way they are
Why so many deny other ways to be in this world

However unsure
However unwise
Day after day they collectively play out their lives
However confused
Or even pretending to know to the end

But this isn't truth this isn't right
This isn't love this isn't life this isn't real
This is a lie
This isn't truth this isn't right
This isn't love this isn't life this isn't real
This is a lie

The angle from which you look makes such a difference.  Here, we're looking at really obvious problems.  I've paraphrased to "they" because we now have an outside observer of this madness we see on the evening news, which is more familiar to even the most evening news-avoiding of us than to this completely bewildered outside observer of our supposedly intelligent species (I'm imagining our observer to be in nature very like a hrossa from Out Of The Silent Planet).  The comments become about the overall pattern, the overall mess, and avoid generalising, because there's a spectrum out there.  They rightly point out that there is a big problem, and that the problem boils down to how individuals decide to live  - or are anaesthetised, whichever it might be.  Collectively, we're making bad choices; and individually, each of us makes at least some bad choices, even if we try really hard not to (but hopefully we get better with reflection and practice).

The quick paraphrase above is just a sketch for the purpose of this discussion - I'd not offer that as any kind of song lyrics because first of all, it doesn't sound poetic enough now that I've put qualifiers everywhere and messed up the meter and the flow, and I'd have to find a way to be both specific like that, and poetic.  Secondly, I'd want another week or so to check and re-check for errors in thinking or in conveying - to de-bug the software, basically - before coming up with a more acceptable version, and even then...

Anyway, that's the sort of images that were popping up in my mind in my early listens to This Is A Lie, when I listened impressionistically to lyrics which are open to interpretation - sort of like a Rorschach test  ;) - as opposed to taking them literally, with the added information from that interview, and deconstructing them and seeing if their premises hold up to scrutiny.  I don't think I've pinned this song, by the way - just explored some implications earlier which may or may not have been intended by the writer at the time of writing.

I don't envy professional songwriters and poets that their life's work is forever on the public record from its beginnings, which might be early 20s or even before that.  We're generally learning and developing as we get older, and tend from the beginning to be saddled with quite a load of dysfunctions and human error, some of which we might become aware of down the track.  So, if you write and publish poetry about personal things, any early (or later) misconceptions will be out there, even if you now think totally differently about many things.  It's why some songwriters have written "antidote songs" in response to earlier songs they were unable obviously to undo, such as Sting writing If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free in postscript and as a correction to Every Breath You Take; and why Shakespeare's Sonnet 130 is so different to his Sonnet 18.  Of course, we can't expect to "get it right" from the go-get, or all the time, and that's normal.  And if you wouldn't do certain things differently now compared to ten years ago, then you've not learnt anything in the last ten years...
SueC is time travelling


Now we're onto remixes, a big feature of CD-4 of this set.

When I was much younger, I was less interested in remixes and more interested in the "right" version of a song. Sometimes I liked a remix because it made a song I loved much longer, without interfering with aspects of its character that I enjoyed.  But, often remixes sounded "mangled" to me.

Sometimes, I still think a remix does kind of mangle a song; but I no longer think any remix that's got a very different character to the original song has been mangled.  For me these days, "mangled" means filled with (to me) unpleasant sounds or sound effects; and I'm sure some of the stuff I'd describe as mangled, other people with different tastes would really enjoy, and be surprised I feel that way.  (I now refer people back to the Smorgasbord analogy:

One thing that really changed my attitude to remixes as a young person was grunge happening.  This is because the advent of grunge, in my 20s, meant I stopped listening to contemporary music radio and went instead on a deep (and ongoing) journey into classical and folk music.  I now had a CD player in my car and no longer needed to default to radio, so the commute became an opportunity for music education.

I'm not from a musical family - other than that a grandfather I never met played piano.  The only real exposure I had to classical music was at school.  I remember when a primary teacher brought in a classical piece and said it was about flowers waiting to burst out from under the snow in the springtime, and we were all going to be flowers and listen to the piece and get ready to burst out from the snow and grow towards the sun - the music would tell us what to do, when.  And so, we all got on the floor in child pose, all over the room, and listened to the sound unfolding, and slowly unfolded ourselves, and when the music built to a crescendo, we all stood up and reached up our arms and tilted our faces to the sun, and there were smiles everywhere because this was actually a really lovely thing to do.

In middle school music classes later on, I was forced to listen to Holst's Planet Suite, which struck me as dreary and violent, and coloured my opinion of classical music as torture dreamed up by boring old fogeys for infliction upon the young.  The classical stations were chloroform via soundwaves, to my young mind.  (I think in part that's a programming problem - a lot of classical stations do sound like anaesthesia when they're playing really long, boring, nothing-happening symphonies, usually in the middle of the day - you know the sort, with E-strings scratching away in the background like fingers down the blackboard, and the occasional violent burst of kettledrums to wake everyone up.)

But then, in 1984, the film Amadeus came along, and considerably tweaked my perceptions.  I was now once more open to the idea of listening to classical music.  But, I didn't buy my first classical CDs until I was a university student - Mozart, from the specials rack - because, as I said, music was not much of a thing in the house where I grew up (I'm not counting being exposed to heavy metal turned up to wall-shaking levels by my older, teenage, brother), and my CD collection as a high school student was tiny - less than a dozen.

The next fortuitous thing that nudged me further into classical music was boarding in a very musical household for a while, when I was 27 and doing my first year of teaching at high school (post research / university teaching).  Mother and daughter played piano, and loved music, and I very fondly remember listening to them play.  They also talked passionately about music with me, and played back CDs, and encouraged me to borrow from their collection.

When you start listening to classical music on a regular basis, you can't help hearing different versions of the same compositions.  I started to notice, for instance, how different recordings of Vivaldi's Four Seasons emphasised different qualities in the composition, and how there was no one right way to perform it, just versions I preferred to others.

And this exact thing now makes me far more interested in remixes than I was as a young adult.  I'm interested in hearing other versions of songs I like - and sometimes surprised that I enjoy a remix of a song I didn't like before.

The fourth track on CD-4 of Join The Dots is an ambient remix of This Is A Lie.  This version really foregrounds the string quartet and is beautifully arranged.  I listened to the original version on Wild Mood Swings for comparison and couldn't tell you which I prefer - I think it would depend on my mood.  The original version has more energy, the remix more depth.  If I was only allowed to keep one version, I would keep the remix, because the strings really carry this piece.

Brett and I had an interesting discussion over how much lyrics matter to us in our enjoyment of music that's got singing in it.  He estimates that for him they're usually worth about a third.  He says lyrics can ruin a song for him - like finding out a song he liked for its Medieval atmosphere was actually about John Lennon (the same song, Moonlight Shadow, I thought sounded like an advertising jingle for a dishwashing liquid, but if you'd told me it was about John Lennon I might have liked it slightly more).  Brett says that often he's not even fully aware of the meaning of a song, in part because he can't hear a lot of the lyrics - he says singers often mumble them, or think guitars are so much more important that they drown out the vocals with them.  He doesn't look at lyric sheets much, and says that a lot of lyrics are inscrutable anyway - wryly adding that many songs are probably written with people totally drunk or high and that you'd have to be on the same stuff to have half a chance of working out what they mean, or at least for it to seem profound.  He kept citing Cure lyrics at me and saying, "I don't know why you're not putting this in, it's funny!"  :-D  :kissing_smiling_eyes:

So it would be fair to say that Brett has lower expectations of lyrics than I do, and is therefore less likely to be disappointed - especially as he doesn't often sit down and solidly work at figuring out what a song is about.  He says some songs have very obvious meanings and their vocalists sing clearly, but he's not particularly into figuring out murky things, which may not be worth the time anyway as they may just be badly written.

Sometimes, if a radio is on somewhere, I'll go, "OMG, what are those people singing???" and I tell you what, perhaps it's better that you don't know.  I think my overall enjoyment of contemporary music as a whole would be much improved if everybody sang in Swahili.

For me, lyrics make up around half of my enjoyment of music, and I've almost always sat down to try to figure them out - more seriously in my youth than now - sometimes I just half-listen these days. I can't run a full literary analysis on every single thing I listen to anymore, it would just get exhausting.  I appreciate it when people articulate clearly and write lyrics that can be followed first time around - people who are really good at that include Suzanne Vega, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Kate Miller-Heidke, Mike Scott, Karen Matheson (from Capercaillie), Paul Kelly, and Liam O'Maonlai - and I think Bloodflowers is really worth commending on that front too.

It's funny, I've had people on Reddit say to me, "You like Bloodflowers? Wait until you hear a good Cure album."  Presumptuous ignoramuses.  If I'd heard any of their previous records instead of this one as my first full listen, I'd not have been anywhere near as impressed - Disintegration is excellent, but not particularly emotionally mature.  That's been a bugbear for me with earlier Cure albums, and was a big reason I was never a fan as a teenager.  I was looking for responsible, thoughtful adults for my role models back then, seeing as I didn't have those at home.

It is actually pretty difficult to be mining the back archives of a band when you're in midlife, and you're going backwards from a gem like Bloodflowers, where you feel you're actually listening to an equivalent adult singing.  Sitting down seriously with the lyrics to This Is A Lie was really disappointing, even though that was recorded only four years earlier - and there's a few like that on Wild Mood Swings, and on earlier albums.  It's a particular pity with This Is A Lie because it's musically fabulous, and it's a decent vocal performance too.  I don't think it's totally ruined the song for me, but it's certainly put a damper on it - about like listening to a song with lyrics trying to convince people that the Earth is only 7000 years old, or that the Port Arthur massacre was a government conspiracy.  I'd enjoy it more in Swahili.

Anyway, returning to remixes - the fifth track on CD-4 is a remix of Wrong Number.  I have a great deal of affection for the original - I love its energy, and it was a song I misappropriated for dealing with an ongoing difficult situation in my life - does anyone here ever do that, just cherry-pick bits of lyrics that go with a particular situation, and re-write a song in their heads so they can use it for a particular purpose which has nothing to do with the intended meaning (if any) of the song?  Or write comedic lyrics to go with classical pieces?  I misappropriated The Blue Danube to write a very silly ditty about Brett once.  We also like to "translate" the lyrics to screechy opera duets on the run - you know, when the lovers quarrel in Italian - and I'll do the female part, and Brett will do the male part, like, "What, potatoes for dinner again???"  :winking_tongue

Anyway, the original Wrong Number is wonderfully noisy in the right kind of way; the remix feels like a party remix to me, and I never was into those sorts of parties.  Usually I enjoy female backing vocals, but I don't enjoy this vocalist, she's really brash; also, I'm not a fan of the voice processing exemplified by that remix; it sounds in parts like there's reverse peristalsis going on.  To me, the original version rockets off into the stratosphere, while the remix is rolling around on the ground convulsing.  However, if I'm netting fruit trees or making compost, it's OK listening because I'm not listening too hard, or thinking about it too much.  Brett, by the way, didn't like the remix at all, but really liked the original as well.

Next on CD-4 is More Than This, from the X-files soundtrack.  Musically we both enjoy it.  Brett was a fan of the TV series (for the first five years only), I wasn't.  The song goes with the UST between the lead characters in the drama series.  That kind of being in love I got over a long time ago because it's just a form of self-torture and not based on anything real.  It's the kind of being in love that increases in direct proportion to the lack of interest of the beloved, and that's a dysfunctional thing that takes you nowhere good.  It's the ignored toddler in you hoping the significant others in its life will finally shine sunbeams upon it, and it's just as doomed.  Paul Kelly wrote a wonderful song called Beggar On The Street Of Love.  It's topical and I'm going out with the Jenny Morris cover because she sings it beautifully.

More on the weekend (maybe - I'm temporarily out of words  :1f634:).
SueC is time travelling


Construction notice - a postscript has been added to Post #49.  Just one of those topics...

In my CD-4 discussion, I'm up to World In My Eyes, which I didn't realise until last week is a cover of a Depeche Mode song - because I don't consult sleeve notes etc until later on in the piece (although I do look up lyrics I can't hear clearly fairly early on), and because I'm not a Depeche Mode fan.  I wasn't in the 80s, because I didn't like synth pop, and I'm not after checking back for the purposes of this discussion, either.  I don't like the original World In My Eyes, having now heard it; and musically much prefer the Cure cover of it, which is more layered, more complex, not grating, not cold.  I don't have any urges to skip that track when running through this CD.

Lyrically, well, let's just say that I'm getting a bit ambivalent about looking too closely at lyrics at the moment lest it destroy my enjoyment... The words to this kind of grate if you look at them one way, and pass as just another of the countless odes to sex which are neither offensive nor particularly inspirational, if you look at it from a different angle.  (We went to a blues gig last night and heard quite a few of these there...

Which brings us to the brilliant track Possession, my favourite off this CD and already previewed here:

All right - here's the clip for Possession again, simply because:

It's worth going back to the lyrics for this (the prior post has them) if you don't catch them all.

I do think this is a fabulous song, and it's the kind of song that isn't spoilt for me if I listen to it frequently - it's got enough depth to keep getting new things from it with each listen.  The lyrics are about something quite fundamental to the human experience - something that everyone has to grapple with - and the music is wonderfully evocative, even spooky.  You could use the instrumental part of the music as a backdrop to stories about haunted houses (of modern construction, like a haunted skyscraper or airport terminal), zombies (albeit happy, upbeat ones that perhaps have just found a big vat of brains to eat), quests etc.

I've just asked Brett to have a listen and he's getting computer game vibes, and travelling montages going from A to B.  So there we are, folks - that's the concept of intertextuality raising its head again - every person brings a different set of prior texts/experiences and ideas to literature, music etc and it affects how we interpret it.  In some ways, music and literature are like Rorschach tests - what do you see?

If we're going to compare texts, an obvious one for me to bring into the discussion is the 1960s classic drama series The Prisoner, which I just finished watching last week: The last episode of that just instantly connected to this song for me, because both are about our shadow sides / evil twins.

If you've never watched The Prisoner, I highly recommend it.  It came to me courtesy of my husband's extensive interest in good drama and cinema - something in his collection he said I should give a try almost from the moment we met - and because of that I've also seen, and very much liked, Edge Of Darkness (BBC version), The Lives Of Others, Life On Mars / Ashes To Ashes, Secretary, Donnie Darko, Fight Club, American Beauty, Wonderfalls, Neverwhere, The Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, Almost Famous, Blade Runner, House (which I binge-watched like nothing else), most of the classic series of Dr Who (we're up to Sylvester McCoy), and the modern series from Matt Smith onwards (going to get to the earlier ones after the classic series, but I have seen Blink :heart-eyes).  Although he's definitely put more time into watching drama than me, I did manage to introduce him to a few gems as well - Amadeus, Three Colours Blue, Three Colours Red, and Scientific Eye's Food Chains :rofl.

(So, let me also recommend marriage to you for the purposes of mutually beneficial exchange of cultural experiences.  :cool)

If you've not seen The Prisoner, you may want to stop reading until you have, because I'm going to discuss the answer to the question:  Who is Number 1?  So shoo, unless you've seen it!  :P

Here's the usual intro to episodes of The Prisoner, as a taster:

So, all through the 17 episodes, the big mystery was:  Who is Number 1?  Who is behind all this stuff?  Except that typically, I didn't care very much about that, because I'm used to that sort of facelessness.  Nevertheless, the big reveal in Episode 17 is that Number 6 himself is apparently Number 1! Bwahahaha!  At that point, I saw the whole thing as a modern fairytale, and took from it that the source of all the awful stuff in society is actually from the shadow side of ourselves. I wasn't going down the road to thinking he had an actual evil twin - there were too many other things shifting too, for it not to be a fairytale, in my opinion. Brett has a different interpretation - he thinks Number 6 is strapped to a table somewhere hallucinating the whole thing - but can't tell me when the hallucinations began - they'd have to be at least two episodes long, or indeed, maybe he just started hallucinating at the very beginning when they piped that gas through the keyhole of his house! Famously, there are a thousand different interpretations of this series, and meant to be.  (More Rorschach testing!  ;))

I think it's a great ending, and that it's way more important that a work of art gets you thinking and asking all sorts of questions, than that it provides a "satisfying" ending.  Cognitive dissonance is a great motivator for learning.

So, in the end, it's very like something I wrote in an essay as a 16-year-old, in a bout of youthful cynicism:  People keep going on about the Apocalyptic Horsemen, but in reality we see them in the mirror every morning.  I was a funny 16-year-old, but I was spot on about that one, and it's actually not cynicism, it's more like realism...

There's this human tendency to want to locate evil outside of the self.  When bad things happen, it's someone else's fault - the bad guy's, usually, because according to this way of thinking, in the world there's good guys and bad guys, heroes and antiheroes - and nothing in-between.  (Well, that's cartoon-land, and B-grade cartoon-land at that.)  If it's not someone else's fault, but it's demonstrably my bad, then it's still not my fault really, because the devil made me do it.

How much more honest and refreshing is the idea that each of us are capable of great goodness as well as great evil - and that we're each responsible for our own actions.  Most of us are chimeras, mixtures of dark and light - and I don't think it was an accident that the masks used in the final episodes of The Prisoner had a black half and a white half over each face; it represents that same idea, of opposites in the same person, contradictions in each of us.  Nobody is entirely good, and presumably nobody is entirely bad either - Hitler was apparently nice to his dog - although I have heard it said, "If you think there is good in everybody, then you haven't met everybody."

So there's opposites, and things on a spectrum too - think of good and bad on a spectrum with neutral in the middle - and then there's that good and bad in itself is a) an oversimplification, and b) insufficient to describe everything relevant to this topic.  There's a line from Where The Birds Always Sing, "The world is neither fair nor unfair / The world is neither just nor unjust" and that's not just an important thing to understand about being in the world, but also a concept that sometimes applies to ourselves - for example, when you're slapping a mosquito, you're destroying a life - but it would be a mistake to assign that a moral value, since it's an instinctive reaction to an insect bite - in the same way that you can't call a lion "bad" for killing a gazelle.

(constructing! :cool)

Interim note: I will get back to this - right now my husband is on annual leave and we are spring cleaning like mad!
SueC is time travelling


Just wanted to let people know I will actually eventually finish this, I promise, we're just really busy right now and both had a nasty cold for weeks, which didn't help any.  You'd think it would, because being ill involves bed rest or semi bed rest, and laptops exist, even at our place, but I felt like an elephant was sitting on my head and bleh and therefore, writing cohesively was not on the agenda...
SueC is time travelling