Thursday, April 10, 2014

Synthethized, but Haunting

At the mothership, paleo left a comment about the CNN coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner. For some reason, I was reminded of one of my favorite tunes by synthpop superstar Thomas Dolby. While synthpop is usually thought to be icy and emotionless, Mr "Dolby" brought a certain warmth and emotional depth to his work. As another musician put it, "All this machinery making modern music. Can still be open-hearted. Not so coldly charted, it's really just a question. Of your honesty, yeah, your honesty."

One of Thomas Dolby's most emotionally wrenching songs is One of Our Submarines is Missing, a five-minute opus about the death of his uncle, while serving on a WW2 submarine crew. I just listened to the song three times in succession, and its descriptions of the crew slowly dying in their floundering "Spam tin" give me goosebumps:

The red lights flicker, sonar weak
Air valves hissing open
Half her pressure blown away
Flounder in the ocean

In the chorus, he seems to be singing of the futility of maintaining an empire on which the sun never sets, and the cost in lives that keeping such an empire entails:

Bye-bye empire, empire bye-bye
Shallow water - channel and tide
Bye-bye empire, empire bye-bye
Tired illusion drown in the night

The single was released in the immediate aftermath of the Falklands War, and it is not a stretch to believe that the song was a response to the conflict.

Here is a live performance of the song, in which the ordinarily cerebral Mr Dolby aims for the listeners' hearts, and scores a direct hit:

I just had to update this post to include a video of a 2008 performance by Mr Dolby, in which he is totally rocking the Big Bad Bald look:

I have to write him to ask if he's a long-lost cousin...


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I remember the Falklands War.

What a pointless exercise that was. The era of Reagan and Thatcher.

mikey said...

Probably fair to point out that the Falklands war was precipitated by Argentine President's Galtieri's invasion of the Islands.

Whether UK should maintain far-flung possessions from colonial times is a worthwhile discussion, but it's hard to blame the Falklands clusterfuck on Maggie & Ron.

Also, too, it's probably a good thing that arrogant powers get reminded every now and then that for all their "power projection" capabilities, one good submarine can always fuck up your day...