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A World On The Fritz

How The Arctic Monkeys Predicted Our Current Malaise

Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

It’s always been difficult for me to understand how music sans lyrics could be considered as good as the type that fits more aptly, with the notion of ‘poetry in motion’. Lyrics are what gives a song its meaning, much more than a beat ever can. The beat merely dictates the level of emotion a song gives off.

Without lyrics, music is just noise. For one thing, you would not be able to play around with and throw out random interpretations of a song such as I do below. As with all poetic muses, you can twist the interpretation any way you see fit. Below are key lines taken from One Point Perspective by Arctic Monkeys. It seems to me that they knew about Coronavirus and it’s ramifications before the rest of us.

Dancing in my underpants
I’m gonna run for government
I’m gonna form a covers band an’ all

Early lockdown days back in March 2020, endless amounts of articles flushed out of social media about how much one was going to achieve from this ‘time-out’. A dramatic reduction in the pace of our daily lives, where the rats were no longer racing, seemed to spur people into life, thinking big and bold, hence running for government and forming a covers band. For some, it was enough to lounge around, or dance, in their underwear, safe in the knowledge that getting dressed was no longer necessary. Zoom call? Just chuck on a cat filter.

I fantasise, I call it quits
I swim with the economists
And I get to the bottom of it for good

The fantasy continues, good weather and the one-time redeemable allowance of a daily dose of exercise, saw many adjust their unhealthy habits (‘I call it quits’) and inspiringly shift from the couch to 5k. Soon, there were fewer law abiding citizens, as many preferred to ‘swim with the economists’, who questioned the need for such stringent lockdown measures and became more concerned with the impending economic crisis, than the immediate danger to life.

By the time reality hits, the chimes of freedom fell to bits
The shinin’ city on the fritz
They come out of the cracks, thirsty for blood

And reality really did hit by lockdown 3.0. The shining city no longer fit for purpose, transforming into an apocalyptic ghost town. Yet, extremism doesn’t abide by rules to make it’s point known, cue the anti-vaxxers and far right anti-lockdown factions coming ‘out of the cracks, thirsty for blood’, as epitomized by a summer of protests.

Photo by Max Bender on Unsplash

Oh, just as the apocalypse finally gets prioritised
And you cry some of the hottest tears you ever cried
Multiplied by five
I suppose a singer must die

This screams climate change and it is where I will tie my interpretation of the song to the future. Eventually, the real lesson to be drawn from coronavirus will be that the current economic system is no longer fit for purpose. The age old capitalist ideal of putting growth before health and sustainability will meet a grisly end sometime this century when the earth itself will no longer tolerate this greed. And yes, they will be the ‘hottest tears you ever cried’, as soaring temperatures become commonplace.

“Singsong ‘Round the Money Tree”
This stunning documentary that no one else unfortunately saw
Such beautiful photography, it’s worth it for the opening scene
I’ve been driving ‘round, listening to the score

Is Turner et al. laughing at us here? Admiring the show from afar while it lasted? ‘‘Singsong ‘Round the Money Tree’’ — probably the most poignant lyric of the tune — summing up how money is in charge, and we merely shuffle like children around it, the great old oak, blissfully unaware of the power it has over us with its sheer size. Some have awoken to the seriousness of this crisis, others not yet. Will enough become alert to sufficiently halt it?

Photo by Sorasak on Unsplash

Or maybe, I just imagined it all
I’ve played to quiet rooms like this before
Bear with me, man, I lost my train of thought

It is more likely that we will go back to our old ways. Following the UK’s glorious announcement of an anticipated ending of social distancing measures some time in June, airline shares began the ascent back to their previously lofty heights. Don’t think that the economic system and climate emergency, and they are intertwined, will be meaningfully changed until those hot tears start to pierce the skin. Then, as Attenborough, timely for this post, pointed out — it will be too late.



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Making a Mess on Medium. Apprentice Wordsmith.