Issue #155 / June 2021
I heard your song, Carnage. Such a beautiful song. Such a beautiful, sad song. Many years I haven’t heard such a beautiful, sad song.
PETER, HAMBURG, GERMANY
Can you tell us something about the background of the song Carnage?
EVA, GRAZ, AUSTRIA
Would you tell us something about the song Carnage? Just some impressions. I can’t stop playing it.
KAREN, LOS ANGELES, USA
What is Carnage about? It is such a mysterious song. Can you tell us something? Anything?
SIGNE, MALMO, SWEDEN
Dear Peter, Eva, Karen and Signe,
It is a little while since I have listened to the song ‘Carnage’, I will play it now and give you my own impressions, as they come.
‘I always seem to be saying goodbye / and rolling through the mountains like a train.’
I am very happy with this opening line. I think it is the best I have written for some time. It lands us squarely in the centre of the song, emotionally, physically and poetically.
‘My uncle’s at the chopping block, turning chickens into fountains / I’m a barefoot child watching in the rain.’
The song begins as a recollection (as does ‘Albuquerque’) with the initial act of carnage, a childhood memory of my uncle decapitating a chicken outside his country home in Mount Martha. I watched, in the rain, as a small, intrigued child.
The chord shifts upwards, beautifully! Favourite moment on the album! (Thank you, Warren).
‘That stepped into this song / taken a bow / and stepped right out again.’
The child enters the actual construction of the song, as an apparition, says goodbye, and then retreats as memories do.
The song circles back to its opening chord as we move to the present time, the narrator sitting on the balcony reading — and writing the song, ‘Carnage’, itself.
‘I’m sitting on the balcony / reading Flannery O’Connor with a pencil and a plan.’
I had just read an article that dealt with Flannery O’Connor’s unfortunate attitudes toward race, and her subsequent defenestration, and I am experiencing that particular conflicted sadness, so familiar these days, of watching someone I have loved for so long, and who has given so much to the world, driven to the margins by an unforgiving present, taking part of me with her. More carnage.
Lovely half rhyme of ‘balcony’ and ‘Flannery’!
‘This song is like a rain cloud that keeps circling overhead / here it comes around again.‘
The rain cloud is the chorus itself, waiting to burst, and as the chorus comes around, it begins to rain.
‘And it’s only love with a little bit of rain / and I hope to see you again.’
Second verse and we are now launched into the future.
‘A rain deer frozen in the headlights steps back into the woods / my heart it is an open road where we ran away for good.‘
The hero couple are on the road, buoyed away by the song, fleeing the past, the present, and journeying into an hallucinatory future, to spiritual love, to arrival, to death and transcendence.
Lovely chordal rise (thank you again, Warren) that corresponds with the final ecstatic vision of the child, on fire, instated within the sun. I am very happy with that line too — the woman pointing to the shared vision.
‘Look over there! Look over there! / the sun a barefoot child with fire in his hair.‘
And then the ecstatic detonation!
‘And then a sudden sun explodes!’
And the muttered, secret words, as if to myself.
‘It was you, it was you, and only you.’
The song rolls into the chorus and then returns to the opening sentiment, of love as the engine of all things, and life as a perpetual valediction, echoed later in ‘Lavender Fields’ and ‘Shattered Ground’.
In the end the song ‘Carnage’ fulfils the promise of the first line, as it delivers itself from the carnage of the past and the carnage of the present, in the form of a conversion, to the peaceful fullness of time. It says goodbye.
‘And it’s only love / driving through the rain / rolling down the mountains / like a train / it’s only love / and it comes on like a train / rolling down the mountains / in the rain.’
I hope these thoughts are of some value — not sure they have added anything — I hope they haven’t take too much away.