Hi all! Welcome to a song-by-song meander-y musing (muse-y meandering?) through a Mode album particularly close to my heart, Playing the Angel. Please, please, PLEASE feel free to comment and/or add your own posts if inspired :)))
It starts with the biggest, baddest, most-sudden noise in DM’s…
Now you left me unword. That is a deep and thorough look into a song. *bow down*
I have a rather different look, but not that far. I absolutely agree that it is a picture of desperation and anger, painted in bold colors, but not only that, it is also a tale of grief and realisation that the time to take the right decision has arrived.
The writer was on the a crossroad, which, if he was not careful, his decision would lead him to the brink of disaster. There were problems laid ahead on any direction he looked. He didn’t see them yet, but deep in his heart, he knew. He could feel it. And he knew, the key to all of those is ‘control’, control to his life, control to his heart. Control. Whether he made it or not, it all would be depended on whether or not he could take control.
‘Playing The Angel’ is a fitting description for the situation. A difficult situation, where we desperately tried to avoid doing something we might regret later on. But on the other hand, by not doing it, we might hurt ourselves and in turn, we hurt people we care about. We are not angels, we are also not devils, we are human, who try our best, to be good, to play an angel, because we care. And sometimes, because we are trying to play an angel, we end up being hurt and hurt others.
“A pain that I’m used to” is opened with a siren, and right after that, a low tune/frequency sound continued the siren; we heard these two sounds throughout the song and then it ended abruptly with the siren (which is companied with the drums (or what I assume as drums (the processed one). And we are left with the weak clattering sounds as if two hard objects hit each other. Perhaps only echo and created unintentionally, or as any good writer will tell you, nothing happened unintentionally in a story; perhaps it was meant as two or more worlds collided.
These two contrast sounds, as a matter of fact, are the basic sound of the song, with the low tune is used as the body and the siren is used as the chorus. You know, like somebody who tried so hard to control himself and as he could not hold on any more, he cried his heart out and exploded.
Stand alone, the song is a puzzle to me. Sound-wise, it is louder and angrier than “Useless” (‘Ultra’). In “Useless”, instead of low tune sound, they took an advantage of Dave’s vocal range by having some ‘very’ low keys. For my ears, besides “Everything Counts”, this is the song, in which Dave’s jaw seemed to have reached his stomach (it’s a joy to my ears, I can tell you, you know I love baritones, right?). But in “A pain…”, Dave let out the cry, combined with the siren sound. One side, Mart talked about ‘taking control’, the other side, through Dave, he let out his anger. I mean, this man is a genius or what?
However, reading the lyric, I always wonder who is ‘you’ in this song and marvel at the choices of words he used. Many times, when I read the lyrics, I said to myself, that’s it. I’d better stop writing now. Why should I? He said it already, and on the level of a craft I would never reach.
First stanza, he talked about the situation he was in (emotionally and psychologically), and cunningly/cleverly he used the word ‘console’, which can mean ‘lessening the grieves’ or ‘giving comfort’, but can also mean, ‘A central control panel’ or ‘a supporting subject’ (among others). He’s losing the key element in his life: control; it’s slowly slipping through his fingers and there’s nothing he can do about, when he himself doesn’t even know what he wants and realising, being himself is not enough either. When the person, who he thought he had been, started playing with his mind, questioning his decisions (in the past or the present)… instead of being an angel (“When The Body Speaks”, Exciter), now this very person is just ‘playing the angel’. Which ‘angel’ is he anyway? Gabriel - the messenger, Michael - the protector, or Lucifer - the bringer of dawn? Any of these angels, isn’t a choice, really, when he himself is not really sure what he wants.
Now the question of ‘you’ (the part that really puzzles me). If ‘you’ is a second person, then this song is really an angry song. Accusing ‘you’ as a cheating lying ass; an abuser. But like many other abused ones, he doesn’t want to let his abuser go, as he wrote in the refrain.
That idea makes it difficult for me to believe. It doesn’t ring true, you know. Mart was/is probably a pessimist and all, but I don’t think he was/is that pessimist, let alone letting himself being in an abusive relationship (or advice anybody to do so). In his quiet way, he is a fighter. He knows when it’s time to go (“Leaving in Silence”, A Broken Frame) or in real life, his decision to stop drinking. Just like that (well, I do believe it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. It must have been a hell, you know, with the cold turkey and all, and the temptation afterwards…)
Which leads me to believe, that ‘you’ in the song is the narrator himself. It’s a conversation with himself. Questioning all decisions he ever made, is and will. The more he questioned himself, the more he was uncertain. “Devils thrive on the drive that is fuelled” (2nd stanza, 4th line) and “Devils feed on the seeds that are sown” (4th stanza, 4th line). Devils - what is the ‘devils’? The addiction? The fame? Wishes and desires?
‘You/your’ in 4th stanza, to me, is more like ‘you’ as third person, which reminds me to what Nietzsche said, “Anyone who fights with monsters should take care that he does not in the process become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil ). The narrator is reminding himself to be aware with the hole in his soul, the beautiful emptiness - as he will call it later (“My Little Universe”, Delta Machine), which is like an animal, which doesn’t have the same standard moral or value as the angel. A ‘devil’ with different name.
But in the end he knew, he couldn’t continue letting everything go as usual, or keep himself quiet. He came to the realization, he had to do something about it. Came clean with whatever he was facing. Because even he doesn’t say much, he cares. And whatever he does, it comes from the heart. (5th stanza)
The first step that leads to recovery. A realization, an acknowledge to the situation he was in. The question is only, what he was going to do about it?
Back to the refrain, and the battle continues, which leads us to the next songs…