“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Friday, July 15, 2011

Joyful Hymns of Death

...the final song on the new Yes album is a total masterpiece called “Into the Storm.” It's hard to sum up the quite frightening and joyful (by turns) humor and flexibility and darkness in that song. It's just a brilliant way to close out the album. 

Of course it's a song about being in a forty something year old rock band but it's also about being a sixty something guy (as they all are apart from the new lead singer Benoit David). 

I'm talking with my good buddy Liam Heneghan about it and he had a great line: they have achieved a “nimble jubilation of certain older things,” such as trees. I think of willow trees when I hear this part of Sophocles' Antigone:

In flood time you can see how some trees bend,
And because they bend, even their twigs are safe,
While stubborn trees are torn up, roots and all.
Forget you are angry! Let yourself be moved!

The older Yes men sing: “One thing left from all these years / As stupid now as we were at first. / Maybe that's the way it goes / When you try to change the world...”

If I can get to that level I'll be quite satisfied...It's a storm of old age, death and creativity...all mixed...

Then comes the younger guy, scared in the jubilant shadow of the old trees: “Take me away from the heart of the storm...” Like “Don't let me go in there! Yikes! I'm being sucked in!”

What a brilliant juxtaposition. But it's not over folks...

This leads to an at first almost imperceptible modulation into triplet time, as the song begins a coda. As the chords of the coda take over, we hear the lines of the very first song, “And we can fly from here...” lost in the storm...as our friends become part of the gigantic flowing pattern of reality, the flowing pattern of death and rebirth... 

(BTW Trevor Horn loves these “Neptune the Mystic” (Holst)-like moments in which something from the very beginning of a record returns in a stranger, haunting way. I have another post to do on the continuity of imagery on this record.)

Yet the song doesn't fade out, it comes to a stop, not a dead stop though, but an acoustic guitar flourish of soft sadness, some kind of seventh chord cluster. There is no grand design. Just people...

Total stop or fade out would have been less ambiguous than this. This is ambiguous to the fucking end!


John S. Hagewood (aka. Fragile Forest) said...

Great post. This is a fabulous song, and the whole album is brilliant!

Timothy Morton said...

Thank you mate I really appreciate that.

Warriorpoet said...
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Warriorpoet said...
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