As mentioned earlier, Wilson Joliet is the equally evil twin of Sanities. Along with Strange Times in Casablanca, it defines the mainline of Honi Soit. Characterized by a paralyzing paranoiac tension, the songs build from a sinister beginning to a crisis point - or a psychotic break? - and culminate in an ecstatic bout of screaming gibberish. (Riverbank and Russian Roulette hew roughly to this template as well.)
Like Sanities, it starts with a woman terrified of her mother. However, this immediately and bizarrely detours into even stranger territory: "Before the clock slammed another door on the weary hours we were facing, a second-hand Shylock shylocked in, in on us." It's rather shocking to hear Shylock, the "evil Jew" of the Merchant of Venice, invoked in such a stark and simple way. It sounds, well, bad. What's worse, it's totally opaque, admitting to no analysis. You don't know where the words are coming from or what they're supposed to mean, so you don't really know how to react. I feel that I have to bring it up, but I've got nothing to say about it.
It then proceeds to, like Riverside, weave military atrocities of the past and their effects on society ("like the lovers below Bataan") into a modern context, though even more obscurely than that song does. Is a lyric like "mothers weep while children sleep like ancestors in the ground" too manipulative, playing the "dead kiddies" card for quick emotional resonance in an otherwise meaningless song? Or does it get points for pointing out the bitter irony of children serving the role of the old (fertilizing the soil) rather than of the young (changing, ha ha, the world)?
Even more than Russian Roulette, it has no shame about its political incorrectness. It's one thing to feature audio clips from the 1954 British WWII film The Dam Busters in which characters call to the commander's black dog Nigger, as Pink Floyd did in The Wall. It's another thing entirely to create a militaristic fantasy world and end the song by screaming about you and the dog blasting out of confinement. Imagine driving through the city, blasting John Cale on your car stereo, and sharing with the world at large repeated screams of "Me and Nigger blasted our way out!" Not comfortable. And you can't explain nor rationalize it.
Like Syd Barrett's solo ramblings, the song's value lies solely in the atmosphere the song creates and the thoughts that it evokes. I don't know whether it's the audio equivalent of a Hieronymous Bosch or of a Jackson Pollock, but this war word salad just does trigger feelings in me. Is it
- the crashing background noises?
- the cascading tribal/march drums?
- the church organ hovering ghostly over the song?
- the endlessly reverberating guitar?
I don't know which of these things in particular gets to me, what turns improvised babble into something moving. But something does get to me, and apparently to him too, given that the song was mystifyingly included on the Close Watch compilation. Does it get to you? Why, or why not?
And would someone please tell me what the title means?