Monday, 4 March 2019

Unfathomable Lyrics

There are many songs on Dayglo Fishermen's vast back-catalogue of albums that contain quite unusual lyrics. This is part of the appeal of the band, but it can also cause confusion and even frustration as to what the meaning behind the lyrics actually is. There is never an official explanation, and that is probably because the band wants the listeners to make up their own minds, or interpret things in relation to their own lives.

One song in particular has been the subject of great debate, but so far a comprehensive and widely accepted definition of its true meaning has yet to emerge. That song is, of course, 'Flaxen', from the band's 1993 album, 'Animate'. It's heavy drums and bass, drenched in gated reverb, pound away relentlessly as some of the most unfathomable lyrics in history are unleashed.

The cover image for Dayglo Fishermen's 1993 album, 'Animate'

The song contains four distinct sections of lyrics, so let's take each in turn. First I will attempt to explain the story. Only then can a possible meaning, if indeed there is one, become clear.

Part One

Listen, extraordinary
Legendary, driving, pounding
Disenchanting harmonies
Need settlement inside a globe
Relocate the spinal chimes
Within its clamouring confines
Of masquerading slimy, shiny
Apple-feasting fools
I consider the 'harmonies' mentioned in line three as some kind of intelligent beings. The preceding adjectives suggest that they are quite amazing, famous, but ultimately disappointing creatures. They need to be moved into some kind of globe, for protection from something yet to be revealed. Within the globe are apple-eating entities, but they are 'masquerading'. This suggests that they cannot be trusted. But what else can the harmonies do but join them?

Part Two

Phantoms silhouetted sharply
Petrify the incandescent
Bodies that revolve around and round
The focal point of sound
Eradicate with shrewd precision
Dissonant, mischievous tones
Purify and fully mend
The madness: it must end
The phantoms are without doubt what the harmonies are fleeing from. Whatever they are, they appear suddenly from the direction of the light to mask their approach. They terrorise the harmonies as they go about their business at 'the focal point of sound': their home. The time has come for the phantoms to be destroyed. The whole area must be cleansed of their presence before peace and sanity can return.

Part Three

Shadows casting incantations
Spectral ghouls from fiendish nations
Trample massively upon
The sound assembled cunningly
Grievous situations need
Omnipotence excessively
The Mystic Mite of flaxen flesh
Must rule the waves of pain
A great war takes place. 'Spectral ghouls' - beings from numerous worlds - unite against the phantoms, but the phantoms prove to be a formidable foe. With the situation becoming desperate, and defeat almost inevitable, the harmonies and their allies call upon the 'Mystic Mite', an immortal and golden-skinned entity, for help.

Part Four

They caterwaul atrociously
Then stress-fully depart the sphere
As glowing grinning escalating
Soaring symphonies unfold
'Agonising tones!' they wail
Cringing as their size reduces
Flinching densely as coercion
Shapes a singularity
The Mystic Mite's almost god-like powers prove to be most effective. The phantoms, who had surrounded the globe where the harmonies had fled to, scream and disperse as the Mystic Mite's extraordinary capability is unleashed. But they cannot escape. The Mystic Mite forms a singularity - a super-dense point of matter with an inescapable gravitational field - right next to the phantoms. They are crushed by the singularity's incredible forces and effectively vanish.

Peace returns. The harmonies are safe, or so they may think.


The choruses are filled with quickly spoken and often mumbled Japanese, which is largely incomprehensible. The final chorus closes with a repeated phrase which translates to English as follows:

This is the facsimile mode

How does this relate to the story? Perhaps this is a warning to the harmonies? Perhaps the apple-feasting fools are not really their friends? After all, they are described as 'masquerading'. Perhaps they are involved in some sort of cloning activity, and invited the harmonies into their globe with malicious intent? Could the globe be the 'facsimile mode'?

It seems that the harmonies, desperate to escape the phantoms, failed to see the mortal danger that faces them once the Mystic Mite leaves. Their fate within the 'facsimile mode' may well end up worse than the one they would have suffered at the hands of the phantoms.

The Meaning?

I have let my thoughts dwell on these lyrics for quite some time, but any deep meaning eludes me. I suspect there isn't any. At most it is telling us that there is safety in numbers, and that it is wise to maintain a good relationship with those that can help you in a crisis. And it is also useful to know someone very powerful who you can call on during the very worst times.

But it is also telling us to beware of those that offer help too readily. However desperate you become for help, always remember to read the small print.

If there is a deeper meaning then the lyrics will need many more years of study to uncover it. That is no bad thing. Many works of art are discussed and reinterpreted again and again for decades, even centuries. Such efforts can arguably be more enjoyable and satisfying that the artwork itself. That may well be the case here.