Once in a while there is music that comes my way that causes me to sit up and take notice in the same way that a slap in the face does like good art tends to do. The two tracks I present here today have done just that. I’ve listened to both repeatedly and also the videos are top notch. The videos are also related in their themes.
First is MANDRILL by Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). It is an instrumental track that carries a strong industrial beat similar to 80’s/90’s era Nitzer Ebb and Front 242. It is the lead single from Gore’s forthcoming solo instrumental EP, THE THIRD APE. The music was inspired by THE RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD CHIMPANZEE written by culture and anthropological historian Jared Diamond. In the book Diamond lays out the argument that humanity is the third chimpanzee. The chimpanzee is genetically more closely related to humanity than to other apes, monkeys or primates. Diamond proceeds to draw many lines of comparison to reveal the truth of his observations and assertions about the evolution and future of the human animal. After watching this video I immediately purchased the book and found it a fascinating read.
Now back to the video. When I first saw the video several things stood out. The abstract nature of the videos “film language” mixing abstract art, animalistic representation with (what felt like) aggressive expression of the Mandrill featured in the video, the frequent appearance of figures of three (usually expressed in bars or strokes), the white palm print of which I can’t help but draw comparisons to the white hand of Sauron on the Orc’s that served him in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. And then there are the splatterings that seem to suggest uncontrolled madness as they appear on the canvas. There is also the way the abstract at one point starts to flow from the top of the screen like blood.
Was the Mandrill barking and biting back at humanity? Is this an animalistic criticism of humanities aggressive devastation of the planet? Just how much blood does humanity have on it’s hands? For me this video feels like observation and commentary instead of just criticism. I think this is a good thing because it means that there is still hope to change the outcome.
This next video is by 80’s musician Gary Numan. INTRUDER is the title track from his forthcoming album (May 2021). This is very dark and visceral. Visually, near monochrome, the video is filled with abstraction with the literal dissection of the performer by dark blurred geometric shapes in contrast to appears of what seems like roots, bones or animal parts, something I can’t define. It feels shamanistic and is a perfect statement for our time. I’m struck by the lyrics. In the beginning it’s about the “I” and by time we reach the end it’s about “you”. Taken as a whole it’s about us, you and me. Numan, as a fragmented singing spirit in the beginning seems to ask “What does humanity really want?” What choices are we faced with? In a world that is all talk where people gravitate to like-mindedness on social media that creates greater division, less tolerance and understanding; this song is a definite criticism, but still ends with a sense of hope by asking the question “Don’t you wish you listened more?” Which is also the resolution to the problem. He is critical of religion, and rightfully so, as religion has become a pawn of those who seek power and control. Speaking is more a religious act and listening is a more spiritual act.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the character in the video is some sort of demon or dark force but I would like to suggest that it is the earth itself like a dark angel holding up a mirror to reflect us back to ourselves on what we’ve become. And in this video there is the deliberate “blood on our hands” image – and if we consider the mirror reflecting back to us – we take pride in that blood as we streak it down our faces with a war-like tribal ritual to show our power. Not only do we have the blood of all the lives we’ve slaughtered but the blood of the planet itself with our environmental devastation. Do we like what we see? Will we make the right choices and decisions going forward? Will we continue to be the intruder or the caretaker/restorer? If we kill the planet we kill ourselves.
I could listen to you scream Pretty music to my ears I could listen to it all day If you want me to I could talk about my world How you brought about ruin I could talk about your greed If you want me to I could look into evil See a heart just like mine I could throw away reason If you want me to I could walk into darkness Find the hole you crawled into I will be the intruder If you want me to You can whisper your lord's prayer And pretend that it matters But don't you wish you'd just listened more? You can hide in the shadows And pretend I won't find you But don't you wish you'd just listened more? I could listen to more lies About promises you kept Will you walk on water Like you said you would? I could make you my prisoner But you were dead men talking When you burned the oceans Like you said you would You can beg for god's mercy And pretend that he hears you But don't you wish you'd just listened more? You can drown in your sorrow And pretend you were helpless But don't you wish you'd just listened more? This was always your one life I won't pretend that it matters But don't you wish you'd just listened more? This was always your one home I won't pretend that I'll miss you But don't you wish you'd just listened more?
Well that’s my take on these two videos. What are your impressions? Leave a comment – I’m listening.
***I can’t promise the videos can be seen outside the US but hopefully you will find a version you can watch.