Fugazi - Torch's Version

This page is the analysis of Fugazi by Torch, a contributor to the Freaks mailing list. It was sufficiently long that it required a page to itself.

Torch
 said: "Fish is, as usual, pissed and depressed. He clutches his 'vodka intimate' as he courts 'isolation', playing the role of the lonely martyr. His apartment, or 'cell' is in Blackheath, a not unappealing area of London that reminds one that he described the first three albums in the Misplaced Childhood sheet music book as Script was bedsit thoughts, Fugazi was hotel thoughts and Misplaced Childhood is home thoughts.'


The cover of the album displays a decadent and depressed rock star very obviously modelled on Fish (less the beer gut!) in an expensive room... the Jester has gone up in the world since Script but not necessarily is he any happier. Fish did contemplate suicide around this time.

He is a 'bleeding-heart poet in a fragile capsule', a capsule perhaps being the room with its rich trappings that only fool him into liking life for so long before they give way to depression; perhaps the capsule is his social survival suit; the shawl of a hangover, the public image that could crumble so easily. 'Propping up the crust of the glitter conscience'... He the poet is keeping the illusion of glitter and glamour alive?

'Wrapped in the christening shawl of a hangover', his only comfort that is also pain, the baptism is not of Holy water but of reality and the tears it produced that bring him back to the world like a newly Christened child ready to face everyone.

On the Piccadilly line of the London Underground he begins to crack up and the contemplation of trivialities and profundities that highlight how 'fucked up' (fugazi) the world is appear to him. He is drowning in reality, as he becomes dangerously aware of it. There is a liquid seize (seas pun... ), presumably a seizure caused by over drinking, more reality seas to drown in as he is sober and under no illusions. Rat race! Everywhere are commuters, nine to fivers all in suits with 'suitable ties', such as wives and kids as well as neck ties. He is their side-show as they all stare at this rebellious rock star. (More on this in a sec).

He is 'scuttling through the damp electric labyrinth', damped with reality... the Underground is a rather prosaic place. Also electricity dampening is dangerous as if Fish sees the imminent explosion of it all.

'Caress Ophelia's hand with breaststroke ambition'
Ophelia drowned herself after (Shakespeare’s) Hamlet had feigned hating her and had accidentally killed her father. So to caress her hand with breaststroke ambition, you are feeling the water slightly with ambition to swim heroically through it, and you will find yourself eventually 'drowning in the real'. However there is a darker illusion here than just swimming after the dead to drown yourself... to caress a girl's hand to comfort her, when you really secretly want to stoke her breasts, and this is seen as 'the albatross courtship, marrytime tradition'... maritime superstition is never to set sail on a Friday, or (as in 
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) to kill and albatross as it is bad luck... all human courtship’s are caresses that masquerade as concern and love and are in face lustful desires that lead to courting the albatross, protecting something for your own safety and gain, traditionally ending in marriage, marry/mari time tradition.

And then 'the time life guardians in their conscience bubbles... '... commuters on the train all reading familiar commuters magazines like Time etc. and perhaps the Guardian too, so he sees a row of Time Life Guardians... or just that they guard their magazines. They exist in 'conscience bubbles' not glitter consciences, but bubbles to protect them from drowning in the real. Fish however is 'safe and dry in my sea of troubles', a lovely oxymoron. So he gets a sense of comfort from being in the role of the poet pained after glimpsing their enclosed existences. He is cast adrift (as at sea) as their 'side-show'... for them to watch as a diversion from the main business of life, a 'peepshow', something a little risqué and subversive they secretly pay some attention to as a novelty, and as their 'stereo hero' the hero of their stereo systems as it plays out their songs; also he is cast as a stereotyped rock star. He is ‘becalmed, be still bewitched'... becalmed at sea when the winds have dropped and you are stuck, as he is by being cast adrift with his bleak visions, but comforting himself and 'bewitched' by what he sees.

'Sheathed within the walkman wear the halo of distortion Aural contraceptive aborting pregnant conversation' The condom (and indeed oral contraceptive pill metaphor - Ed) metaphor illustrates that the walkman wearers on the train (as he is probably one) are sheathed within it and in their own capsule/bubble that we all seem to have to have to survive, wearing a halo of distortion... mmm... radio distortion... headphones are a kind of halo over someone that give off a sound that is distorted to all who hear the beat of it in the carriage and the jarring of it. It is 'aural' as it is worn in the ear, and 'aborts pregnant conversation'; well does it? I don't think people would talk on the Underground regardless of wearing walkmans.

'She turned the harpoon and it pierced my heart She hung herself around my neck' As the albatross is hung round the mariners neck, and has it's revenge on the crew... she turns around his concern/lust and defeats him, but he must carry her around his neck now like a millstone weighing him down, a constant burden. Vietnam images crop up again... a Dockland union... at about this time the London Docklands were being redeveloped into luxurious yuppie flats and the cost of property in a previously cheap area was rocketing, hence their were many cases of vandalism... also there was violence at the Wapping offices of the Sun newspaper during a strike. The lyric probably refers more to the former, as a Union would be impossible between the residents, but it is an interesting pun on 'unions' and the newspaper strikes.

'A mistress of release... hold her by the throat'; We get release from cover girls, who contract more than they favour, i.e. respond to money more than love... Magdalene meaning ex-prostitute as perhaps many models are reformed prostitutes? (I think that the more likely meaning of this passage is a dual pun on contracts as in binding agreements - the payment of monies for sexual favours and the other meaning that the women are contracting diseases from those they sleep with. I can’t really remember that the AIDS story was really that big at the time; I always imagine that it’s about syphilis and slightly less appalling diseases, but I may well be wrong. I also think Torch is slightly twisted with his ideas about models! - Ed.) hold her by the throat, forcefully controlling her by her desire to be rich. Live Fish adds 'they've got you all by the throat', as we all are slaves to greed.

'A son of the swastika of ’45....’ The ugly face of neo-fascism rears its head, as an NF member parades his Aryan style peroxide hairdo to emulate the Hitler youth, a son of the swastika of 1945. People graffiti racial insults; they are disciples to it as they follow the messages they spray rather than express their own thoughts, just following a cause blindly. These disciples conjure not the New Testaments, but Testaments of hatred with aerosol wands conjuring them up. Aerosols whisper as they spray and this is Brixton chess. In 1981 racial rioting in Brixton reaching very high levels with bombing and murder abounding. In chess there are black and white pieces fighting each other, pawns controlled by higher authorities.

'Knight for Embankment... newspaper castle’ On the Embankment sits a businessman folding his newspaper, a very common sight. He is perhaps a merchant banker or the like as he is a Knight for Embankment... his castle is paper... within is his whole empire of stock listings, mere figures. He, like so many of his kind is a creature of habit begging the boatman's coin as he sits by the river wanting the money to pay his way to the afterlife (money placed on your eyes at death to pay the boatman to cross Styx.) He'll fade with old soldiers of his paper castle as the stock listings fade when they become greased stained with tomorrow's fish and chips, a stock list like a roll call, grease stained roll etc. The food would cause him heartburn, a common complaint of older gentlemen, but Good Friday's last supper would cause burning as this last supper is a nuclear holocaust that the final section is obsessed with.

'Son watches father scan obituary columns...' 'This is no place for children' Fish whispers on Brief Encounter. A son watches his dad looking for people he was at school with and has lost touch with as he wonders if they are dead or alive. His generation eat this high-fibre cereal and that, ignorantly clutching at all the straws the marketing men offer us, and digest every other kind of healthy ignorance of reality. They cower in suburbia behind the curtains and windows taped up in case of a nuclear explosion.

This zombie-like existence is mass murder of personalities and existences, 'decriminalised genocide' the houses being 'door to door Belsens' i.e. concentration camps for estates of holocausts. Missiles cruise the skies, infesting the heavens, waiting for the button that Reagan or Gorbachev, we were told could so easily press in the early 80s. This is the penultimate migration as we all flock home to hide before finally dispersing in a bomb blast. We are the fashionably insane as it is unfashionable to care and crazy not to; the condition is terminal as there is no hope for it and it will lead to our destruction. You are mad, it seems, not to realise the world is totally fucked-up, fugazi being a term coined by Vietnam soldiers to describe their predicament, all fucked up. Bear in mind The Deer Hunter is a favourite film of Fish's.


'Where are the prophets?' Where are the prophets, poets visionaries to tell us the 'sentimental mercenaries' time has arrived, and we can fight but care too?

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