Saturday, 18 April 2015

Waxing lyrical

The patch pictured above recently fell out of an old A4 brown manila envelope that presumably once held a copy of Underneath The Rock, and was a free gift provided to all Reptile House subscribers during the halcyon “glasnost” days of the early 90s. At the time, Eldritch was in his most political and most polemical phase, and my (unused, I am ashamed to admit) patch’s recent rediscovery made me realise that this blog has not yet really taken account of 50% of TSOM’s recorded output and arguably the part of which Eldritch is the most proud, i.e. the lyrics. I have to confess that with the honourable exception of the Buzzcocks (and to this day Pete Shelley’s paean to unrequited love You Say You Don’t Love Me can bring a tear to my eye), all of the songs which I loved at that time had earned their place in my affections as a result of the musical content alone, and The Sisters were no exception to this rule.
I was always a sucker for a deep voice, a bit of high tempo syncopated drumming, a descending bass line and a few power chords with the odd minor inflection. Although within a few months of first stumbling across the band I could repeat the words to every song TSOM had produced, I neither knew nor cared what the lyrics were about. For sure, some of the earlier singles (Alice or Anaconda for example) seemed to be third party cautionary tales, The Reptile House EP added an anti-establishment political vibe, and the FALAA era completed a shift to a more self-loathing first person narrative about drug dependency and relationship break-up, but to be honest, having never read Eliot or dabbled in poetry, at least 75% of Von’s lovingly crafted lyrics went right over my undemanding head. I got by perfectly well with only a very little understanding – for example, I have probably heard Floorshow more times than any other song in my lifetime, but if it contains a message designed to elucidate the mystery of life, I must confess that it still eludes me.

Inevitably, as the melodic and musical content of the band seemed to decline, the lyrics took on even greater significance (or perhaps I eventually reached some kind of maturity), and by the time VT was released at the turn of the 90s, my song preferences on the album came to be defined almost entirely by the quality of Eldritch’s prowess as a writer, and his eloquent punnery began to gain wider admiration. Whole articles in UTR (which again sadly, I did not fully understand) sought to demystify some of the imagery Von employed, and even today new recruits to the Heartland Forum can swiftly be divided by their response to the eternal question “You Could Be The One” - Yes or No ?

Unlike many bands of the early 80’s, TSOM were not often to be found playing at political benefits or expounding the merits of a particular cause or campaign, so Von’s overt espousal of the anti-Nazi movement in the early 90s was most welcome. Now where did I put that needle and thread…

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