Exploring the Back Catalogue (ctd)

June 10, 2020

4:13 DREAM (continued)

Well, I finally finished the post on This. Here and Now. With You.  So, I can start looking at the rest of the album today, and then hopefully get to the other two sitting on the desk waiting, soon.  I confess I have cheated and listened to the songs on KM I was already familiar with from live material, just to see what the studio versions were like, and I’m getting very impatient to finish writing about 4.13 Dream so I can finally listen properly to the next album in line…  (If I don’t do it like this, I won’t catch the initial responses to new material, or I’ll lose the order…  it’s a good thing I don’t do this for all the music I listen to, or I’d sadly constrain my listening…😇)

So, I have three songs to go.  I’ve got to admit that Sleep When I’m Dead really didn’t do much for me either musically of lyrically.  The best thing about it to me is the decent bass line.  It would honestly help to have some ball park idea of what this song is about – sometimes it’s difficult to see if something is overly cryptic, or just entirely slapdash, and sometimes you feel like you’ve got far better things to do than try to work that out.  I just don’t want to spend time on it, much as I like puzzles – it doesn’t appeal to me.  …I wonder how it would go live; often songs I dislike on the studio version, I really warm to when this band plays them live.

In general, I will say that musically, this album isn’t very representative of why I personally like The Cure.  Even the musical highlights here don’t actually lift me off the ground as some of their other tracks through the years really do.   I enjoy 4:13 Dream better when I listen to it in “performance poetry” mode, rather than “amazing music” mode.  For that, it’s worth revisiting, though I don’t like every song on it.  But then, I don’t like every song on a lot of Cure albums, and on a lot of albums from anyone – and that’s OK, as long as things are generally interesting, and the majority of tracks appeal to me in some way (not everything speaks to everyone; but things that don’t speak to me may well speak to others 😎).  I probably wouldn’t have been particularly amenable to this album if I’d not already liked a lot of this band’s prior work – it’s like with authors, you’ll give them more leeway after you’ve already enjoyed a couple of their books, and you’re more likely to be interested in anything they subsequently do that’s unlike what you liked before.  It becomes more of a cerebral exercise then, rather than huge enjoyment and/or being really moved by something.  All those things have their place though.

The Scream is a very good example of what I’d class as really effective performance poetry.  And while I’m at it, and just because it’s the first thing I think when confronted with that title:

…I think the song, on my first impressionistic listens, creates a very similar atmosphere as that painting.  I’m not sure if that was intentional, or if it’s a musical example of “parallel evolution” because of the shared human experience of stuff like this.  Of course, most of us in the West will have seen Edvard Munch’s painting in some form, and because it’s so arresting, and so eloquent, it would probably be hard not to be influenced by that piece subconsciously at least, when writing a song of the same name.

So let’s have a look at the lyrics:

THE SCREAM

Yeah I’ve been this way before
But something down here changed
The spring sun hanging slower
Colder in the sky
And your voice sounds strange
Your voice sounds strange

Yeah I’ve been down here before
But this time
Something really isn’t right
Summer sun hangs smaller
Paler in the sky
And your eyes are too bright
Your eyes are too bright

It’s like everything I know
Is twisted out and wrong
The fall sun hanging flatter
Lower in the sky
And your smile is gone
Your smile is gone

It’s like twisted out I know
Now I can’t wake to
Break apart this dream
Winter sun hangs weaker
Older in the sky
And you start to scream
And you start to scream

Scream and you scream
This is not a dream
This is how it really is
There isn’t any other this
Is not a dream
Scream and you scream
Why you have this need
Why you can’t be satisfied
Always want another why
You have this need

Scream and you scream
Dare me to believe
Dare me now to show I care
One last chance to make the dare
Me to believe

Scream and you scream
How we ended here
How we got from then to now
Never really followed how
We ended here

NME might have described the The Scream as “an electro-metal descent into madness” and “a reminder of the primal horror of consciousness” (https://genius.com/The-cure-the-scream-lyrics#about) – and they’re welcome to read it that way – but I don’t.  I think that’s a bit simplistic, plus I don’t think there is such a thing as a “primal horror of consciousness” unless you’re in horrific circumstances (or have been there and are going through the early phases of your PTSD coming out, and I’ve been both places myself so I do think I deserve a seat at the table with this topic).

Warning:  About to rant.  I’m fed up with this fashion that paints the experience of life as primarily negative, and congratulates itself for doing so, and looks down its nose at other people who don’t share that point of view, and somehow imagines itself as intellectually or morally superior because of it, or somehow more sophisticated.  :evil:  I think that’s the equivalent of walking around in funeral clothes all your life specifically for the purposes of setting yourself above other people, and it’s very close in very uncomfortable ways to the public martyrdom face of a malignant narcissist – “Woe is me, and my pain is bigger than anyone’s, and therefore I am so superior.”

To me, The Scream (the song, but also the painting) isn’t necessarily about a descent into madness at all.  You can feel these things and have your feet very firmly on the ground.  To me the song seems to be about grief, and grappling with really difficult things.  Just because you feel pain doesn’t mean you’re insane.  I’d argue that people who actually feel their emotions are far more sane than people who are cut off from them.  I think to confront reality and to become emotionally integrated is really important.

You can go insane with pain, true, but I don’t think that there’s any indications in the song that that’s the case.  I think there’s mental clarity in those words.  I like the way these lyrics are written, the structure imposed by repeating references to the sun, going through the seasons, in the first four verses, and observations on the apparent disintegration of that (but I think that’s just fitting imagery for the purpose and probably metaphor as well), followed each time by observations on what could be the self, but could also be a familiar person.

The lyrics read differently depending on whether you look at the “I/you” as being the same (because sometimes people do use you when they mean one, including I), as opposed to when you look at the “you” being a different person.  In that case, it could be an interaction between a couple – one getting depressed or becoming emotionally unavailable or whatever, and the other reacting to it in pain and frustration because you can’t have a mutual relationship with someone who’s gone away emotionally.

Those first four verses could fit so many things:  A sense of life becoming meaner – and even from a political perspective, that works for the past four decades or so, at least where I live – if not for everything (some things have improved, like people’s attitudes to LGBTIQ), then for the general trend, which is that power and resources are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few, and physical and mental health are going down in much of the West, while the planet’s biodiversity is being trashed.

Those verses could also sum up what it’s like to live with a terminal illness – and in a wider sense, the recognition that all of us are terminal and need to actually come to terms with that.  I’ve heard it said, “Life is a sexually transmitted terminal illness” – and while that gives me a giggle, and aspects of that are true, it’s vastly oversimplified…  It’s funny actually, the difference between speaking to people with a sort of “death cult” mindset, and speaking to people with an actual terminal illness.  The former will sing you dirges, while the latter are so often really positive and life-affirming and celebrate every day they have, and see it as a gift.

The death (or near-death) of a relationship or friendship would also fit this song.  The words give enough leeway for all sorts of interpretations related to grief and pain.  It’s a common experience for all of us – and of course it’s also not all there is to life – but it’s very important to deal with this dark stuff, to acknowledge it, to feel your feelings, cry your tears, be outraged, be angry, be sad, because that’s as much a part of being alive as all that is wonderful and beautiful.

Here’s a poem which explores the relationship between joy and sorrow – from Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet:

On Joy and Sorrow

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?
And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.


Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”
But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.
In this band’s music, joy and sorrow are both explored – as they are in all my favourite books, music, poetry, drama etc.

The Scream is a really excellent depiction of the painful side of life – the scenarios that you wish were nightmares but aren’t, the things you’ve got to go through that you would prefer not to, the painful confrontation with your own dark side – the horror of those things (but not of everything).  When people write about raw things like this, it gives the community springboards for examining their own lived experience.  That’s a big part of why we love our favourite wordsmiths, poets, musicians, essayists, novelists etc.  ♥

The last song on the album next time.

June 13, 2020

I can’t believe it was Australia Day when I started with this topic, and was first listening to 4:13 Dream – we’re just a week from the southern winter solstice now.  :1f62e:  The world has changed significantly since then and to me there’s at long last a glimmer of hope in the public mood around the globe and the sense that many people aren’t going to go along like sheep anymore.  It would be magnificent if that level of consciousness and connectedness and speaking out on social justice stayed with us in the long term, instead of the populace being lulled back to sleep, or just getting exhausted again from being on the hamster wheels that are a part of the problem.

Where will we be, when I’ve finished looking at the next album in line?  I so hope it will still be on the road to a better place…

And so to the last song, called It’s Over.  I’m laughing about that title for the last track on an album, and especially because of the impression that Robert Smith once again thought that this would be the last album.  There’s much to be said for living each day as if it were your last (and one day it will be).  (Can we turn that on its head for a minute – isn’t there also value in living each day as if it were your first, as if you were newly arrived, as if life is not a habit?)

I suppose Robert Smith is just bringing that methodology to his music, and you can see why, even as your funny bone is tickled.  One day it will be the last, but it is actually amusing when it’s been said album after album.  Amusing because of the way life can go, not because I think that this was in any way insincere.

It’s Over is an ear-bleeder.  If your ears are made of teflon then perhaps it’s not, but this song is so noisy that initially I just wanted to cover my ears and run.  Turning down the volume was helpful for staying with it, and then my first thought was:  It sounds like a cross between an Irish jig and hard rock!  There’s elements of both.

It’s crazily noisy, it’s all sound and fury, but it’s also signifying something.  It’s almost as if someone has written a song in the spirit of Dylan Thomas’ Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight, you know:

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.


Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

What’s written about physical death you can often apply to any sort of loss.  It’s Over is also about loss, and emotionally very similar to Dylan Thomas’ piece.  Again, if you’ve read this poem it’s hard to forget it and so subconsciously it may stay with you when you write about a similar topic, but there’s also the “parallel evolution” of all of us confronting these things.

I’ll annotate as I go, this time – it’s easier in this case.

IT’S OVER

I get up
And it’s over
It’s always over
It’s raining and I’m burned
And it’s late and you’re gone
And I can barely remember
Anything I did or said
Or how I lost another week
There must be something going on

I have felt exactly like that, when I was really burnt out, and that happened to me a number of times in my life, indeed sometimes became my life, and is one of the reasons we downshifted, tree-changed and ended up quasi-hippies on a little organic farm and nature reserve in the middle of nowhere (and I read downshifting stories like that all the time).

Burnout is a common experience when people are in professional roles which demand rather more hours each day than a human being is built to handle day in, day out – and especially if you have duty of care for other people, and therefore push yourself for them when you would long have stopped pushing for yourself.  Or, when you’re writing an interminable thesis or other such doorstop, for months and months while days and nights flash by like a strobe light.  It’s especially on the cards when you deeply care about your work, and get absorbed in it, and perhaps weren’t taught as a child how to self-care effectively or that you actually have a right to breathe, etc.

Creative stuff is also very easy to get stuck in, especially if it’s cathartic in some way.  I can well imagine that if you’ve got any sort of perfectionism, writing and recording an album could easily get you into burnout territory, instead of (or perhaps even at the same time as) being a happy adventure in doing something you love.  I find it so much easier to write here for fun, than to write an article that has an end point in which it’s going to be printed and then you can’t change it anymore even if better things occur to you – typing away here is gloriously pressure-free, doesn’t stress me at all, and it helps that this forum has an open-edit setting, so that you can actually go back and revise what you’ve done later on instead of being “stuck with it”… :)

The opening verse to It’s Over immediately brought to mind a song called Step In, Step Out by Weddings, Parties, Anything:


That’s a song about a couple trying to stay sane and find time for each other while working shifts at opposite ends of their days.  The tension between work and family is often problematic, especially if you work long hours, and/or your work takes you away from the people you love – which is basically our norm in the industrial world, and wasn’t when we were hunter-gathering or subsistence farming, as “home teams.”  Of course, working with the people you love can also be a challenge!  ;)

By the way, is anyone else laughing retrospectively at this idea people had in the 70s that in the future (which is where we now are, from that frame of reference) we were all going to have so much leisure time, because of all the machines that were going to help us in our work?  Bwahahahahahaha.  :rofl

If I’m not doing literary analysis here, but talking instead about the thoughts that are brought up as I read through a set of lyrics, it’s because the lyrics really lend themselves to that… and because I think that one of the best things that good art of any description can do is to make us think and reflect and feel and be human.

A nagging sense of shame
I can’t explain
An acrid taste of smoke and blood
And tears and drugs
And every inch of me is raw
And it’s always fucking over
It’s raining and I’m blind
And it’s late and you’re gone

I can’t do this anymore

It’s easy to read this as a postcard from an album-making process.  It’s applicable to a lot of situations, though.  On a very basic level, when I’m typing on the laptop, our dog is often on the sofa sighing at me, and I think her version of the perfect life would be if we were perpetually going on long walks with her every day, in-between mealtimes and snooze time.  So part of me thinks I should be walking the dog instead.  Of course, one can timetable things to get a balance between competing priorities, but you can’t always run life to timetables either.  Another thing we all grapple with.

Dreaming of adventures

Australian mountain dog!

Keep getting there
It’s over
It’s always over
It’s raining and I’m cracked
And it’s late and you’re out
And I can’t quite remember
Anything I did or said
Or how I lost another year
There must be something coming down

At the start of the song, the picture painted was waking up late and the partner is already getting on with their day.  “It’s late and you’re out” has a slightly different flavour from “It’s late and you’re gone” – like it’s the logical corollary.  You know, Person A wakes up late while Person B is already about their day, and then Person B goes to bed at night and Person A is still out of the home, as with Step In, Step Out.  – Of course, both slightly different expressions could just be paraphrasing the same situation, waking up in the morning too late to have caught your beloved before they had things to do, and if that happens again and again it can be very frustrating, depressing and destructive to your relationship, and yourself.  Fitting all the important things in is a bit of a trick, and it would be so helpful if life were a bit more like Mary Poppins’ handbag.

Of course there’s a bit more to it than that here – there’s a general sense of life accelerating out of control.

A sweetly sour unease
It’s like a tease
A broken dream of guilt and fear
And spit and steel
And every piece of me in pain
And it’s always fucking over
It’s raining and I’m cold
And it’s late and you’re out again

(Mummy! The man keeps saying fuck!)

I’m very impressed with the ability of this writer to capture a mood in words, here and in The Scream and in Underneath The Stars and in The Only One (perhaps unpoetically in that one, but no less effectively), etc.  It’s great to see such wonderful use of imagery, symbolism, rhythm, metaphor – there’s an art to effective free verse.  I wonder if this song, and its predecessor, and Underneath The Stars actually started with just the words, before the music, and became an exercise in setting that to music, making a soundtrack for the words.  Whichever way it was, the words work on their own, and they work with the music.  And once again, the words would fit a number of situations.

By the way, I know I’ve said before that Robert Smith is generally better at painting with his guitar (total genius ♥) than painting with words, but here he’s equally excellent with the words, and I think his ability to do that with words has increased as he’s gotten older.  But then, I also think he’s gotten even more adept with his guitar, and he’s definitely a better singer than he was as a young person.  Not surprising, because pretty much everything gets better with practise.  I’ve even, amazingly, learnt to hammer nails in straight and without hitting my fingers, over the last ten years!  :winking_tongue  (owner-building = do or die)

Run my head around it
Like I know I really miss her
But I always want to do it now
She told me in a whisper
I try so hard to place it
Wonder why I really feel it
When to send the pretty flowers
Maybe helps her to believe it

OK, this is a bit ambiguous.  It could be painting a picture of a person thinking about what motivates them in life, trying to untangle something in them that’s contributing to a problem and impacting on their relationship with their partner.  – That’s a nice note, and a bittersweet note, about sending flowers perhaps as a silent apology, an I-love-you.

Run my tongue along it
Oh the taste is something sicker
“But you know you have to do it now”
She told me in a whisper
It only takes a second
But the second lasts forever
Close your eyes
And let me take you down

OK, I’m lost here.  Not the first two lines; they go with the first two lines in the last verse and I interpret that as the unpleasantness of the necessary contemplation of one’s inner workings.  The bit about the second has me lost; I’ll have to come back to this sometime.

And I get up
And it’s over
It’s always fucking over
It’s raining and I’m wrecked
And it’s late and you’re…

No I can’t remember
Anything I did or said
Or how I lost another life

I lost another life
Oh I can’t do this anymore

No
I can’t do this anymore

It’s interesting that you lose a life by consistently losing smaller portions of it – and so we’ve gone from losing another week (first verse) to losing a life (last lines).  That is how it happens (and the related thought goes, mind the small things and the big things will take care of themselves etc).  Death by a thousand cuts.  I was just saying to my husband that the reason I actually have a lot of everyday optimism (despite my view that we’re basically on the Titanic, as a species, and we’ve dragged other species there with us and already tipped a lot of them over the side) is because I know I can learn – and because we love each other.  While I view the long term as rather doomed, the day at hand is doable, and even if we are but a flash of light between two eternities of darkness, that little flash is one great big extraordinary gift, and the ability to come into existence and be conscious, and then interrelate in complex ways with other such beings you care about, is just so tremendously wonderful.  ♥

[PS:  Re alternative reading of this song:  With this particular ink blot, the shape of it would also seem to lend itself to the plight of a person who keeps going from relationship to relationship because they can never keep it together;  the other person tends to get fed up and the cycle starts over with someone else, and then you have a different interpretation to “losing another life” – it would be losing a life that person could have had with a particular person / losing the now-ex’s life.  That wasn’t my initial reading of it because I’m wired a particular way, but it might work for people wired another way.  And after all, I think most of us sometimes even deliberately and knowingly assign our own quite different meanings to songs and poems that are quite clearly about something else – just so we can relate to them / process our own ideas and feelings through the prism this makes for us.  Pure Rorschach!]  ;)

And here I am, finally done with writing about this album (not that anything is ever complete, and therein lies another conundrum).  So now, having restrained myself, I can finally go put on KMKMKM and listen from start to finish.  Phew!  :)

I’ve enjoyed this particular journey – and like with travel in the real world, it’s always extra special if you’ve kept a travel journal (and you can probably imagine our travel journals :lol:).  Especially for the first time you’ve been to a particular place!  :cool   Do I recommend this place to others?  It depends what you like – but I’d say, give it a shot!

It’s funny to think that 4:13 Dream came out the year Brett and I got married, because in some ways that’s a lifetime ago, if you’re a dog anyway.  I’m very much looking forward to the new album that’s currently stuck in some mysterious pipeline, not having its emergence made any easier by SARS-CoV-2.  I wonder if any of the band members feel that the whole making another album thing is so, you know, jinxed…   :1f62d::beaming-face:evil::winking_tongue

Best wishes to everyone; next chapter next time.  :)

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