Whilst warming some soup and sipping sports drinks on a Saturday afternoon chatting with the ghost of Linda Blair about how to evict the demon that has taken residence in my stomach this past week (the Devil and Daniel Johnston documentary, while interesting, lent no clues to this end), I decided to once and for all expunge my mental cache of this little time-tarnished nugget and put hand to keyboard to release it into the world.
I had listened to some tracks that had been temporarily exiled to an old not up-and-running computer recently, which got me thinking about this topic again. It starts like this..Some years ago, when I was moreso than now a daily listener of bands of the same ilk as Wire, the Birthday Party, Gang of Four, PIL, etc., I was in grad-school taking a class from my later-to-be-advisor, Matthew Causey. The class had a moderately obtuse title, as did many of the classes in my program, and though I can’t remember the exact title, the class was largely occupied with discussing philosophy, art, and aesthetics, and was partially occupied with focusing these efforts at critiquing digital media. The class spanned centuries of theory on beauty and art, including works such as the Phaedrus, by Plato. (I was once again reminded this week due to an email from someone who at least sometimes goes by the name Rev. Dr. Phaedrus Eleusis). A particular passage of the Phaedrus attempts to describe the feeling that one (or on’e soul) gets when it encounters a piece of artwork or a thing of beauty. The metaphor, the feeling of cutting teeth mixed with sprouting wings, was particularly odd, oddly graphic, and therefore fairly memorable, even had I never seen it before. Here is the passage in question:
During this process the whole soul is all in a state of ebullition and effervescence,-which may be compared to the irritation and uneasiness in the gums at the time of cutting teeth,-bubbles up, and has a feeling of uneasiness and tickling; but when in like manner the soul is beginning to grow wings, the beauty of the beloved meets her eye and she receives the sensible warm motion of particles which flow towards her…
I was particularly shocked to read this passage, as the metaphor, as strange as it was, was actually familiar to me, having also been used in the song Mutiny in Heaven from the Birthday Party (I think originally released as just “Mutiny” on the Mutiny EP. It should have been no surprise, knowing that Nick Cave is pretty influenced by literature, but it still made me laugh out loud. Here are the lyrics of interest:
Punishment?! Reward!! Punishment?! Reward!! Well, ah tied on…percht on mah bed ah was… sticken a needle in mah arm… Ah tied off! Fucken wings burst out mah back (Like ah was cuttin teeth!!)
Ah took off!!! (Rats in Paradise! Rats in Paradise!) There’s a mutiny in Heaven!
In this one track he pretty well slags the Church and religion, invokes the spirit of Elvis (of course, its a Nick Cave song) with the way he sings “Hole inna ghetto!”, and uses a metaphor for describing beauty by Plato to describe the feeling of shooting heroin. Oh, and he also uses the word “utopiate” — classic. Not to keep using extra coats of paint here, but its actually kind of interesting to look at the way the lyrics are writtern for this song, as they are in the same sort of “voice” if you will used by the main character in his novel “And the Ass Saw the Angel,” which is his strangely Australian southern gothic novel.
Anyway, that is now said. I’ve done internet searches in the past to see what anyone had written about the reuse of this metaphor and couldn’t find anything, so if you’re reading this and it strikes a chord, let me know.