I Bury the Living's song within a song

King Leer

Leering since '97
Had been meaning to post track-by-track impressions of Low in High School but have been just too busy. Overall I like the album a lot. There are some bits, like the topic of this post, which recall the glory of The Smiths and best solo work, while others are daft or cringeworthy. And that's OK!
I do believe that in the future Low in High School will be debated over and reappraised more than any other of Morrissey's post-Maladjusted efforts.

So, the digression at around 5:20 in the too-long I Bury the Living to the shimmering little anti-war ditty knocked me out. The vocal melody and la-las are so beautiful. Morrissey's voice has only gotten better, but it had been a while since I was moved by it like I was by this segment. I Bury the Living could've been just that alone, but the song-within-a-song aspect itself was impressive.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
Its hard to objectively judge this song as the subject matter of the lyrics is so objectionable.
People join the army for many reasons. Often it is one of the few viable employment options. Huge numbers of recruits come from areas of high unemployment.
These are working women/men who risk everything yet if they are unfortunate enough to be injured, they will rely heavily on charity. And god forbid if they are stricken with mental health issues. The MOD are famously reluctant to accept their responsibilities in this area.
The streets and prisons are full of ex soldiers.
The last thing they need is a song telling us that they are the problem.
There is a long and dishonourable history of homecoming troops being treated poorly and on the new album Moz has made his contribution.
 

g23

Always crashing in the same car
It sounds to me like they had unused song fragments lying around and Frankensteined them together. It wouldn't be a huge sin if not for the lyrics, which I rank among the worst he's ever done, and think the end of the song, despite the caustic nonsense, sounds pretty by comparison because of the lack of anything approaching melody prior to it.
 

Charlie Cheswick

Well-Known Member
Its hard to objectively judge this song as the subject matter of the lyrics is so objectionable.
People join the army for many reasons. Often it is one of the few viable employment options. Huge numbers of recruits come from areas of high unemployment.
These are working women/men who risk everything yet if they are unfortunate enough to be injured, they will rely heavily on charity. And god forbid if they are stricken with mental health issues. The MOD are famously reluctant to accept their responsibilities in this area.
The streets and prisons are full of ex soldiers.
The last thing they need is a song telling us that they are the problem.
There is a long and dishonourable history of homecoming troops being treated poorly and on the new album Moz has made his contribution.
I agree with this although I also agree with the point made in the song - perfect fence sitting lol. Looking at it objectively it's a struggle to remember many conflicts which we joined/started in my lifetime which were neccessary and the willingness of people to fight blindly in the conflicts enable them. That said, there are your points and it angers me that if a government chooses to send people to their deaths, irreparable injuries or mental injuries, they don't then look after those people on their return. Charity shouldn't be something that is needed.
 
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Eldritch

Guest
Its hard to objectively judge this song as the subject matter of the lyrics is so objectionable.
People join the army for many reasons. Often it is one of the few viable employment options. Huge numbers of recruits come from areas of high unemployment.
These are working women/men who risk everything yet if they are unfortunate enough to be injured, they will rely heavily on charity. And god forbid if they are stricken with mental health issues. The MOD are famously reluctant to accept their responsibilities in this area.
The streets and prisons are full of ex soldiers.
The last thing they need is a song telling us that they are the problem.
There is a long and dishonourable history of homecoming troops being treated poorly and on the new album Moz has made his contribution.
The song also totally overlooks the fact that many soldiers don't have a choice at all. My grandfather lost an eye in the Second World War fighting against the Soviet troops who tried to invade Finland. He didn't have a chance of not joining the army. He certainly wasn't a "slow joe who signed up to go". And the situation is the same for most soldiers in most armies always. That's something a pampered millionaire like Morrissey will never understand.
 

Charlie Cheswick

Well-Known Member
The song also totally overlooks the fact that many soldiers don't have a choice at all. My grandfather lost an eye in the Second World War fighting against the Soviet troops who tried to invade Finland. He didn't have a chance of not joining the army. He certainly wasn't a "slow joe who signed up to go". And the situation is the same for most soldiers in most armies always. That's something a pampered millionaire like Morrissey will never understand.
To be fair Morrissey obviously isn't referring to that generation. My grandad is 93 now, there aren't many of those guys left. Conscription was done away with in 1960.
 

King Leer

Leering since '97
I think the whole concept of blaming soldiers is just not accepted by the general public -- which is why only Morrissey would write a song like that. Love it or hate it.
The lyrics are blunt, but literally nobody else of note in pop is writing songs that spark discussion. The poster above would not even be able to bring up the point about millions having "no choice".
I appreciate that, even if I don't agree with every one of Morrissey's sentiments. Same goes for Israel.

Back to the song within a song, it's one of the most "British" things Morrissey has sung in a long long time, I felt.
 

Orson Swells

Well-Known Member
Its hard to objectively judge this song as the subject matter of the lyrics is so objectionable.
People join the army for many reasons. Often it is one of the few viable employment options. Huge numbers of recruits come from areas of high unemployment.
These are working women/men who risk everything yet if they are unfortunate enough to be injured, they will rely heavily on charity. And god forbid if they are stricken with mental health issues. The MOD are famously reluctant to accept their responsibilities in this area.
The streets and prisons are full of ex soldiers.
The last thing they need is a song telling us that they are the problem.
There is a long and dishonourable history of homecoming troops being treated poorly and on the new album Moz has made his contribution.
To me this is a misreading of the lyric. It's anti-militaristic not anti-solider. The song is structured like a classic war poem: the solider is nationalistic at the beginning, but through their war experiences the false consciousness gives way to the realisation that this unspecified conflict wasn't worth giving their life for at the end. It's an attack on how people are used as "cannon fodder". The laughter at the end represents those leaders, governments, etc. who gain from the conflict continuing. Obviously the lyric is ripe for Morrissey detractors to misread it, but personally I can't see it as anything other than an anti-war song.
 

Orson Swells

Well-Known Member
Back to the song within a song, it's one of the most "British" things Morrissey has sung in a long long time, I felt.
As I think I've posted elsewhere there's a hint of I Won't Share You about the "funny how the war goes on without our John" section.
 

Peterb

Well-Known Member
To me this is a misreading of the lyric. It's anti-militaristic not anti-solider. The song is structured like a classic war poem: the solider is nationalistic at the beginning, but through their war experiences the false consciousness gives way to the realisation that this unspecified conflict wasn't worth giving their life for at the end. It's an attack on how people are used as "cannon fodder". The laughter at the end represents those leaders, governments, etc. who gain from the conflict continuing. Obviously the lyric is ripe for Morrissey detractors to misread it, but personally I can't see it as anything other than an anti-war song.
Hi Orson,
I don't want to be wilfully anti Moz here and I would like to be wrong.
So, here are a few quotes from the song that show why I took this position:
"A wretched outcast with no point of view"

"There would be no war if not for me
I'm just a sweet little soldier no
No no no no
You can't blame me"

"Call me brave, call me a peacemaking hero
Call me anything, except what I am
From a class without I haven't a clue"

There is no mention here of where the blame really lies.
Am I reading this incorrectly?
 
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King Leer

Leering since '97
That's it! I knew there was a direct link.
Something about I Wish You Lonely takes me back to The Smiths via 1995 Moz (specifically the Boxers/Merchant/Whatever single).

As I think I've posted elsewhere there's a hint of I Won't Share You about the "funny how the war goes on without our John" section.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I'd say it's anti-war and anti-soldier, especially rallying against the concept that all soldiers are brave heroes.
Or innocent bumpkins with no other options in life. People also do a lot of terrible things as soldiers that they aren’t explicitly ordered to do. They rob and terrorize a lot of people and those that do t often turn blind eyes to those that do
 

Orson Swells

Well-Known Member
Is it fair to brand someone who joins up as a

Hi Orson,
I don't want to be wilfully anti Moz here and I would like to be wrong.
So, here are a few quotes from the song that show why I took this position:
"A wretched outcast with no point of view"

"There would be no war if not for me
I'm just a sweet little soldier no
No no no no
You can't blame me"

"Call me brave, call me a peacemaking hero
Call me anything, except what I am
From a class without I haven't a clue"

There is no mention here of where the blame really lies.
Am I reading this incorrectly?
Well, Morrissey's lyrics tend to be ambiguous and invite multiple readings, but I don't see these as "objectionable". I would say the "wretched outcast..." part is just the narrator explaining why he joined. The "I'm just a sweet little soldier" chorus is what he tells himself to justify his actions. Then the "call me anything" lines seem to be him beginning to realise the reality of war. I really like the way Morrissey directly addresses the listener here with "I haven't got a clue... have you?" - which implies nobody knows, of course. But anyway all readings are subjective.
 

Charlie Cheswick

Well-Known Member
Well, Morrissey's lyrics tend to be ambiguous and invite multiple readings, but I don't see these as "objectionable". I would say the "wretched outcast..." part is just the narrator explaining why he joined. The "I'm just a sweet little soldier" chorus is what he tells himself to justify his actions. Then the "call me anything" lines seem to be him beginning to realise the reality of war. I really like the way Morrissey directly addresses the listener here with "I haven't got a clue... have you?" - which implies nobody knows, of course. But anyway all readings are subjective.
I read that as the soldier realizing what they've signed up for is a load of bollocks, but too late.
 
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Deleted member 25370

Guest
Back to the song within a song, it's one of the most "British" things Morrissey has sung in a long long time, I felt.
what makes the 'song within a song' a "british" thing?

i also felt it was special within the narrative of the song, and beautifully delivered, so that it sent shivers down my spine. same with the intro, which is, to my ears, another "song" sung by the crickets (on the war cemetery?). i think the ufo-sound following it, which is just a crazy and beautiful thing, introduces a time shift of some sort, so that we are able to enter the mind of the dead soldier who wants to tell his story.
the 'song within a song' is sung by his mother, i would say, a person who is unable to feel her own pain due to the heavy ideological belief-system she grew up with. the "funny how" implies that though she'd rather like to commit suicide ("how the war goes on", i.e. war = my own sad life without my son) she is willing to continue her existence, pretending to be the happy mother of a dead heroic son that she is expected to be, but also that she subconsciously feels that something is wrong here, but cannot really put it into words.

in many respects, especially with regards to its many-facetted structure, ibtl is a masterpiece.

maybe this is a bit far-fetched now, but "the song within the song" strongly reminded of the "mir ist so wunderbar"("a wondrous feeling fills me") quartet from beethovens fidelio, which is sung polyphonously, i.e. with many voices."wunderbar" means wonderful but also strange, and in this quartet the people are not really happy about the announced marriage but cannot say what they feel.
all in all, your "song within a song" is actually a very german thing, i would say. beethoven would agree with me.
..... just kidding ;)

 
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Peterb

Well-Known Member
I'd say it's anti-war and anti-soldier, especially rallying against the concept that all soldiers are brave heroes.
Agreed. But they are working people in a highly dangerous environment.
Well, Morrissey's lyrics tend to be ambiguous and invite multiple readings, but I don't see these as "objectionable". I would say the "wretched outcast..." part is just the narrator explaining why he joined. The "I'm just a sweet little soldier" chorus is what he tells himself to justify his actions. Then the "call me anything" lines seem to be him beginning to realise the reality of war. I really like the way Morrissey directly addresses the listener here with "I haven't got a clue... have you?" - which implies nobody knows, of course. But anyway all readings are subjective.
I think you maybe winning this one Orson. I feel myself being pulled toward the light.
A further thought. In the current Morrissey micro climate his lyrics will tend to be interpreted badly and I guess that is what I am doing.
You are, of course correct to say it should be interpreted positively (toward Tommy) and I am tending to agree, but it can also, very easily be seen as 'objectionable' (as I initially addressed the song).
Whatever, I don't think I like it anyway.
I love the first track, Home is.... and Spent the Day.
 
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Oh my

Enough! or Too much
I don't see the objectionable side of the lyrics. The message is clear and being a soldier is as good as being a butcher. It's not the first time someone writes a song about such thing, it won't be the last time either. "Where have all the flowers gone" by Pete Seeger, "The ballad of the soldier's wife" by Kurt Weill... or Joy Division's "They Walked in line".

Agreed. But they are working people in a highly dangerous environment.
They are people working people for other highly dangerous people...


"All dressed in uniforms so fine,
They drank and killed to pass the time,
Wearing the shame of all their crimes,
With measured steps, they walked in line."

I find it odd that some people can get offended by lyrics that simply state what a soldier is: a person trained to murder.
 
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