I strongly recommend listening to the song before you start reading. Watch this video.
When I first hit the play button on this number, I had other thoughts meandering through my head like raging rivers. So, it was pretty much ambient. But out of the corner of my mind, I was appreciating the well layered piano and keyboard, the methodical drums and Wilson’s pleasant vocals. However I did not give it any further consideration. When I did though, it changed everything.
THE FIRST DAY:
“As the cheerless towns pass my window, I can see a washed out moon through the fog.
As the voice inside my head breaks the analogue…”
I brought my mind to focus and it took just the opening bit of lyric to catch my attention and it still befuddles me how it didn’t happen earlier. See, some songs can’t come at a more perfect time in your life and this felt like that in spades. But let’s not get into my sad story.
So, a simple thought and a stroke of that metaphorical paintbrush (to picturise of course) later, you’ll see a man who doesn’t quite like this quandary of his life right then, as depicted by “cheerless towns” and feels it rather monotonous. But he does see a “washed out moon” which may imply that his true purpose in life, his very interest lies far away, out of reach as of then, or not yet divulged.
And then he starts throwing around words like “analogue” to make it more vivid, the flatness of it all (oxymoron, BAM!), before the chorus comes along to gently caress our tympanic membranes (eardrum, for the less anatomic of you lot)…
THE SECOND DAY:
“Follow me down to the valley below, moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul…”
The first time I heard it I actually adjudicated that a girl (preferably, a highland lass, don’t even ask) came to the guy’s window and asked him to follow her to this serene meadow where everything’s happy sort of generic bullshit… Obviously, that wasn’t the case. But the notion of the girl, I didn’t discard. I just added a few more possibilities. The voice could’ve belonged to anyone. A loved one, a stranger or just his gut, or heart or his damn gall bladder (just kidding)… You get the point.
More importantly, the voice was clearly telling him to leave his humdrum existence. “Moonlight is bleeding from out of your soul” is the voice’s way of saying that it’s clear that the man yearns and craves deeply to do something he loves so much as to, this very intent that he, for long had bottled up, is overflowing now and urging him to follow the right path. That is, possibly to the “washed out moon” we spoke of just a para ago.
By this part, I was far too deep in trench I never even remembered falling into. But I wasn’t complaining, for the pull of this song made it look less like a trench and more like a pretty grotto. Bring it on. BRING IT ALL ON!
THE THIRD DAY:
“I survived against the will of my twisted folk, and in the deafness of my world the silence broke…”
The man further describes the grimness of his predicament stating that the people and their rules and actions and just their being didn’t help his life one bit and he has somehow managed to crawl through all this time without giving up and landing up in their ranks. This may or may not ground the fact that he was a rebel but it sure as hell does establish his loneliness. Another part of the song where I can draw a straight line from my own life.
Then comes the first real time I welled up during the song. “Deafness of my world” is a simple phrase. But it says so much. It summarizes pretty much everything before it and really takes you to that abyssal place of numbness where the man was trapped for so long. It’s the beauty of the writing and in that moment, Steven Wilson became a legend in my eyes.
THE FOURTH DAY:
“My David, don’t you worry, this cold world is not for you. So rest your head upon me, I have the strength to carry you…”
Okay, so this part briefly stopped my bicycle of thought and made me wonder if there were any contradictions to my theory. The man in question now has a name: David. That’s alright. But does that mean that someone’s addressing him? Is the voice mean to travel through his cochlea (seriously, what were you guys doing during high school bio?) only? Is it a lot more personal than it looks like? However, I was quick to brush these doubts aside. The voice calls him David. So what? Maybe he’s talking to himself. So, I pedaled on.
Basically, the voice is telling David here that he does not belong in that cruel place, that hostile environment and that he deserves something more.
“So rest your head upon me_________carry you.” might have rekindled some of my suspicions but I immediately counter theorized that the voice was urging David to use the support of the belief and let it carry his tired self forward.
Then we are subjugated to around 5 seconds of of guitar strumming that takes the effusiveness to a whole new level of opulence. The layers (yup, this word best describes the musical structure of this song) start lifting up (cause this issue is too recherchéd for the phrase ‘peeling off’.) and Wilson’s voice fades back in to say something that bewilders me to this day…
“Ghosts of the twenties rising, golden summers just holding you…”
Okay, so when I first thought about it, I was clueless. Theoretically, I was headed nowhere and metaphorically, my paint brush was drying up in front of a vacuous canvas. Is that the voice speaking? Or did Dave suddenly decide to take a dip in the ole memory pool? I was lost.
But I had reached as deep as Mariana’s Trench and I wasn’t gonna let this bit of confusion hinder my peaceful descent into the azural (pretty sure that’s not even a word) embrace of Atlantis. So, I kept going.
“Come to us, Lazarus, it’s time for you to go…”
So, after the final chorus, the song culminates with these very lines and “Lazarus” pretty much the key word here. To be honest, at that time I only really had just a faint idea what that meant (I know, for a sci-fi fan who’s used to Lazarus Pits and Lazarus Crystals, not knowing about the name’s origin is absurd, but I guess I never really bothered before this.).
So, I look it up and everything falls into place revealing the big picture. I’ll cut it real brief for those of you who don’t know: Basically, Lazarus was a biblical character, a diseased beggar who falls to the mortal coils. Jesus then comes along and deems Laz worthy of another shot at life so that he can attend to unfinished business (probably). So, Laz is resurrected four days after his death.
And that’s parallel to our guy’s situation, see? The dullness of David’s life was so severe to the point where he was almost dead inside, a ghost. It was the voice of self realization that exhorted him to press on towards the light. Towards revival. Towards a second chance.
That was it. I was more than content with the whole thing and I kept listening to the song again and again, air drummed, air guitar, sang to it, everything pretty much… I had deciphered it and absorbed the full essence of the song. Or so I thought…
MOTHER AND SON:
All was good until I came across this Steven Wilson interview on the internet (where else seriously? VH1? Nice joke.) and he actually discloses what he really meant the song to be about. He does not say much (most artists do not say a lot about their work, unless they’re egotistical jackasses like moi). So, he’s like in the song, a dead mother is addressing her boy. I’m like… Yeah, I just did not know what to think or say or do… Obviously, I was disappointed. Not because of the mother-son aspect, no… But because, it did turn to be personal and it felt like I’d never be able to relate to it the same way…
But then I just added the mother-son aspect to our whole interpretation and something really special happened. A shroud formed around the big picture that we decoded, like as if it were encased by the boundary of a higher dimension. It all made sense. The mother-son emotional tool has been used before and its power has been realized to be raw, fresh, stirring and something truly capable to tickling the deepest recess of the heart. Steven Wilson has done just that. The song retains its humble relatability and is protected by the purity of a mother’s love. That, my folks is just perfect.
Also, this higher dimension, as I call it has opened a passage to a part of the song that we thought out of our reach. Yes, lets jump back to “???”. So, “ghosts” may refer to the mother? Maybe. Maybe not? The second part of the line though about the “golden summers”, it seems to me like the mother is revisiting some fond memories of her’s with her son, David over the years. My metaphorical paintbrush jumps to life and paints this sepia-gouache stop motion representation of the mother and son’s time together and I feel something incredible inside. Just a bittersweet throb that may or may not ever return but I’ll always remember what it felt like.
Someone I knew once told me that they don’t like it when people analyze, probe, dissect the hell out of everything. Lazarus is a beautiful piece of music with simple lyrics that may not have been meant for this much… dissection. But the coldness of that word aside, for the emotional fruit that one can experience after just giving it a little bit of thought, I think it is totally worth it. Even musically, Lazarus is timeless and extremely well layered. (there, I said it again)
To second chances. Cheers.