what the world needs now is a good deus ex machina
Release Date: 9/04 and 3/07
Album: YOU DON'T KNOW ME and LONG PROMISED ROAD
Writer: ADAM MARSLAND
Can I say this one thing,
although it's not the done thing,
why does no one give a crap for what happens
'less it's one of their own team?
The world is shriveling up now,
smothering on gas and cow,
'cause it's the land of the free,
screw thine enemy,
make the mother kowtow, but don't blame me.
What the world needs now is a good deus ex machina;
let God sort it out and then God can sort out
whose god should sort it out.
Pullin' off the interstate yeah,
wanna fill my plate yeah,
burnin' in taco hell,
you can't sell lessen you incorporate, yeah.
Spin around the dial now,
sure won't make you smile now,
'cause I'm tuning in the man wherever I am
and it's a steamin' pile now.
Don't blame me!
You know what gets my goat, man?
When I gotta go vote, man.
Make me choose right or left,
shoutin' in a treble clef and it's rote man,
yeah 'cause knowledge is boring,
not as interesting as warring,
cut the tax, keep the pax,
disregard the facts,
ignore 'em if they're foreign.
But don't blame me, yeah baby!
Around the time of YOU DON'T KNOW ME I was fantasizing about making a record consisting entirely of ridiculous song titles. The only other one I can remember now was to be called "The Night I Bought Micky Dolenz A Beer." (Maybe it's a blessing that I don't sell that many records, because it prevents me from following through on side project ideas like this).
(2010 addendum: Never say never: HELLO CLEVELAND, released six years later, did indeed include a song called "The Night I Bought Micky Dolenz A Beer" and 13 other songs with titles just as bizarre as that one. And people bought it. Go figure)
I never got around to writing that one, but I did actually go on to compose a song called "What the World Needs Now Is A Good Deus Ex Machina," and then I wondered what the heck to do with it. The only remotely punk-sounding song on what for me was a VERY mellow record, it took me awhile to decide whether this was a serious composition or not, and whether it belonged on the album. It eventually became a live staple and I'm really proud of the quirky, twist-influenced guitar riff that opens the song, and the record needed SOME rock, SOMEWHERE -- so I'm glad it made it on.
So what IS a "deus ex machina"? According to wikipedia, "Deus ex machina is a Latin phrase that is used to describe an unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot (e.g., having the protagonist wake up and realize it was all a dream, or an angel suddenly appearing to solve problems)."
Well alrighty then.
In other words, the world is so fucked up that it's like a play that's gotten written into a corner. "Deus" means god, so the idea of deus ex machina is that only god can get you out of a mess (even though religious belief also feeds into the mess in question).
Lyrically, this is a political rant that a lot of people misunderstood, as people are wont to do with political rants that don't break down in an obvious right-left way. My problem with partisanship -- as opposed to taking a position you believe in and can defend -- is it means you've joined a team, and if that leads you to apply different standards to people that you agree with and disagree with, that's just wrong in my view. If you have to give your side a handicap to win an argument, there's a problem with your argument. (Also, if your first response to a political argument is to label the person or entity making it as "liberal" or "conservative", that probably means you aren't capable of addressing the points that person is actually making. Is this a pet peeve of mine? You betcha.)
So taking the above into consideration, you'd be right in thinking I am no fan of George W. Bush, but at the point I wrote this song he and his pals hadn't disgusted me to the point where I was pushed all the way into the opposite camp (this has since occurred). The song isn't so much bashing any particular idealogy as it is pointing out that we all complain about the state of politics and problems in our world without realizing we're ourselves enabling this with the people we vote for or, more often and less obviously, our refusal to get involved in the process or pay attention to what's going on. To me, it's very easy to just wash our hands of it all and say "hey, they're all crooks" but public awareness is the only thing that keeps politicians and governments in line. Of course it's hard to find out what's really going on -- that's not an accident. But if people just give up and walk away in frustration, guess what's going to happen.
The live version on LONG PROMISED ROAD substitutes the words "Don't blame me...I voted for John Kerry!" not as a partisan statement but because I predict that, just like Nixon won 49 states in 1972 but you couldn't find a Nixon voter in 1976, in 10 years no one will admit having voted for George Bush (note: this blog was originally written in 2007, and a year later that's already almost true). For the benefit of my future kids and grandkids I wanted to get it on record early that I really, honestly didn't. That aside, the song isn't just a list of things about the world that really piss me off (religious hypocrisy, consolidation of the media and restaurant industry, the degredation of the environment, the stupidity and dishonesty of political discourse and how it then affects actual policy -- all nice safe targets). It says that none of us (including me) are really prepared to take full responsibility for it. We just want someone to fix it, and preferably in a way that doesn't inconvenience us personally.
I've been made fun of in my life for doing things when other people sat on their asses, but I've also looked askance at people that I thought were too activist or strident (I heard Mike Farrell, who would have fallen into this category in my head, make many of the same points I had already written down for this blog in an interview this morning. Which is the dangerous thing about labels -- they exist to shut certain people and opinions out).
I now realize that people that actually DO things are the bravest and most valuable humans on the planet, and they carry the water for 99.9% of the rest of us who sit around and applaud and/or mock. You can say, for example, animal rights activists take things too far, but really, all that means is that's some more bad shit in the world you didn't want to have to think about. We should be thanking those people for pointing out that spraying crap in a cat's eyes to test out antiperspirant sprays is not cool, or critiquing the flaws in their positions, not taking cheap shots on some dumbass talk show.
It's easy to laugh at people who care about something passionately. Often people like that ARE gonna be kinda dorky or weird or extreme. It's harder to decide you don't care how you look, or what anyone says about you, and just to care and do what you think is right.
Having said that, the best part of this song is, you don't have to listen to all those words at all, you can just twist to it! Yeah! Which I suppose is ultimately the best and most ironic thing about this song.
Off the soapbox now: one of the things I tried to do on YOU DON'T KNOW ME was bring in all my friends to do guest shots on the record, something that I couldn't do so well in a band context. One thing that was planned but didn't come off was to have the rhythm section from The Muffs play on "Deus Ex Machina." How cool would that have been?!?
Obscure lyrics unraveled:
pax = latin for peace
lessen = rural dialect for "unless"
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