I can make out 'd'
A reversed 'y'
Acrylic, lower, Urals, question mark
More demonic than italic (2)
A snake 's'
The numeral two at end
Then a letter so simple, yet disgusting in a stroke
And the it anti-matter
That writ, wrote, it
Inexplicable and disgusting
Limp, yet mocking
Indestructable in a stroke
It encapsulates all that is foul in man and creature (3)
It is scoffing
In a spacious and wasteful
Rochcliffe valley hall (4)
Revealed in dream, in cloth
The dry cleaning fluid erased the brain so far (5)
Brain we held most dear
Now we have to make sure
He's safe, sound, and clear (6)
He's staying with friends again
He will never join
When they are of unguarded, friend,
You see and believe
And Elizabeth and dear old Bill
Or the buffoonish Roderick (7)
1. This was originally titled "Jungle" when it appeared on setlists in August 2014. In a way the lyrics are pretty straigtforward--the narrator expresses distaste for a piece of writing. Intriguingly, his ire seems to be directed at the typography ("a letter so simple, yet disgusting in a stroke").
Dan has found that there is something called "jungle cloth," although it's hard to see what it has to do with the lyrics:
A water-repellent cotton version of Bedford cord called Jungle Cloth was used by the U.S. Navy for flight clothing during the 1920s-1940s era. Today Jungle Cloth is made exclusively in Japan..
This song shares certain lyrics with "Jam Song" from 2013's Re-Mit (see note 6 below).
If we transcribe the mentioned characters in the sequence in which they are mentioned, we wind up with something like "EY?S2." Somewhere in there the word "eyes" is almost suggested. Divvey from the Fall online forum has suggested that the opening lines refer to an eye test, while Dan finds this on page 13 of Renegade:
"Worst thing was, when I was about six I went blind. I had an eye disease that nobody could understand. I just woke up one morning and everything looked like it was in Hebrew or Greek. It's like being thrown into a foreign country... For half a year everything looked upside down, like ancient letters, hieroglyphics...
Chris Goodhead suggests that the song may be about a T-Shirt.
Steveoid from the Fall online Forum says of the title: "I assumed it was from J Cloth, the well known dish/cleaning wipe widely promoted in the 70s."
Commenters have suggested that the song sounds like West African pop or, indeed, Santana...
Ian F points out that many of the formulations here are quite reminiscent of Lovecraft.
And Simon remarks how close the title is to "Jumper Clown," the song Marc Riley presumably wrote about MES (it is not, as one can guess from the title, an encomium). The first lines, as Simon suggests, could be talking about trying to read an eye chart; none of the letters mentioned, of course, appear in either title: 'e', 'y', and 's'--these do appear in "eyes," which could be a clue that MES is at an eye doctor, and reading a chart that says "Jumper Clown."
Thanks to Shrimper for transcribing the lyrics.
2. Xyloplax: "If we think of Acrylic (=Cyrillic) and Urals being a reference to Russian, then 'more demonic than italic' makes more sense if you consider that 'demonic' is a word swap with 'demotic,' which is usually most associated with 'demotic Greek,' the linguistic term for Modern Greek, the alphabet of which Cyrllic closely resembles (St. Cyril, the inventor of the Cyrillic Alphabet, was Greek). Italic, of course, being a reference to the Roman alphabet. Linguistically, Modern Greek is part of the Hellenic Language Family, which many Linguists say is closer to the Slavic Language Family (which Russian is a member of) than the Italic Language Family (which Latin and the Romance Languages are a member of)."
The language of the New Testament, koine ("common") Greek, is also sometimes called demotic Greek. Note that "demotic" means "of the people," so koine and demotic have similar meanings.
As alluded to above, it has also been suggested that "Acrylic" may be a mispronunciation of, or perversion of, "Cyrillic," an Eastern European script which is used, among other places, in the Urals, which of course clears everything up about this song...
3. Some interesting remarks from Russell Richardson:
"On that mysterious letter referred to, 'a letter so simple, yet disgusting in a stroke'... this is surely the capital "I"... it has been referred to as a 'downward stroke of arrogant identity,' which would fit into the general tenor of the piece. An unrelated thought is that MES is scrying the Greek alphabet, maybe a newspaper (now why would he be learning Greek...?) which is an interesting idea (note also the real Greek or mock/clumsy Greek grace notes in lyrics of the past decade.)"
That quote about "I" was so apt that it sounded familiar, but I have to put a Wikipedia-style "by whom" here...a Goodle search for the phrase turns up only Russell's comment toward the bottom of this page, alas.
4. "Rochcliffe": maybe. See the comments for some suggestions. Rochcliffe is the name of the titular character in Hawthorne's "Lady Eleanore's Mantle." See Wikipedia for a summary, and thanks to Gizmoman, who points out there is also a Roderick (Ellston) in Hawthorne's "Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent." See note 7 below.
5. Dry Cleaning fluid (Tetrachloroethylene) is highly toxic; people who work with it are at risk of, among other things (!), becoming mentally ill...
6. From "Jam Song":
It started one afternoon
When the LP came on
It erased the brain of the man we held dear
Now we have to make sure
The estate and sound
And we have to make sure
The estate and sound
Here "Estate and sound" may be a substitution for the phonetically similar cliché "safe and sound," which appears in the next stanza: "Now we have to make sure
It is safe and sound today."
"Clear," it should be noted--although it is somewhat unlikely in context--could refer to Scientology, which holds that human souls, or "thetans," accrue attachments called "engrams" as a result of traumatic events (and other thetans, of the unrestful deceased, have a tendency to latch on as well). One of the lower levels of initation, which occurs when the practitioner is prounounced free of these accretions, is called "Clear."
7. This is all speculative, since it's not 100% clear what MES sings. There is a Roderick Ellston in Hawthorne's short story "Egotism; or, the Bosom-Serpent." He is a man who is said to have a snake living in his bosom. He claims to be able to identify the snakes living in other people's bodies as well, but after a reunion with his ex-girlfriend he is somehow healed...note that in the beginning, the letter 's' is identified with a snake.
Thanks to Gizmoman for suggesting the connection with Hawthorne. He adds "an even more likely 'Roderick' is Roderick Usher from Poe's 'The Fall of the House of Usher.' I'm certain Smith is more than familiar with this one, especially the Roger Corman film which he will have seen at a young age if he's anything like me."
Smith is certainly familiar with R. Corman...
8. This is highly uncertain. It sounds kind of like "Leffick"..."Lithic" means of stone, or related to stone. Dan points out that these names match those of P.G. Wodehouse characters, athough this could certainly be a coincidence...
on that mysterious letter referred to, "a letter so simple, yet disgusting in a stroke"... this is surely the capital "I"... has been referred to as 'downward stroke of arrogant identity', which would fit into the general tenor of the piece.
an unrelated thought is that MES is scrying the Greek alphabet, maybe a newspaper (now why would he be learning Greek...?) which is an interesting idea (note also the real Greek or mock/clumsy Greek grace notes in lyrics of the past decade.)
Which then makes more sense of 'urals'?
1) I hear "d" instead of "e" as the first letter mentioned.
2) If we think of Cyrillic/Acrylic and Urals being a reference to Russian, then "more demonic than italic" makes more sense if you consider that "demonic" is a word swap with "demotic", which is usually most associated with "demotic Greek", the linguistic term for Modern Greek, the alphabet of which Cyrllic closely resembles (St. Cyril, the inventor of the Cyrillic Alphabet, was Greek). Italic, of course, being a reference to the Roman alphabet. Linguistically, Modern Greek is part of the Hellenic Language Family, which many Linguists say is closer to the Slavic Language Family (which Russian is a member of) than the Italic Language Family (which Latin and the Romance Languages are a member of).
The notion of an occult Snellen chart appeals to me.
But then I was looking through Renegade and found this (p13 of the hardback edition):
it's from a poem I wrote in 1984. Sorry.
No-one ever read it anyway, but it sensitized me to the probable meaning of MES's phrase.
"He's staying with friends again, who will never join, bequest. When they are Alf Garden friend, you see and revere, An(n) Elizabeth and dear old Bill, order (over)? the foolish Roderick, Leffick(?). "
Any info on Alf Garnett that seems relevant to anyone?
There's no "alf" here. It's "a garnet friend" or "Garnett friend". But no "alf"
The Greek of the New Testament is often called "demotic," that's not the same as Modern Greek though, or is it?
Last word is lithic
I think so with "lithic," I'm going to check again though.
7. Sometimes snakes have garnet eyes in jewelry...for whatever reason, this is common, in fact. There's a snake 's' earlier, and a possible (tenuous!) connection below (see note 7). But this is a reach. Gizmoman suggests (among other things) "When they are Alf Garnett, friend"... Alf Garnett is character from the British sitcom Till Death Do Us Part.
That Rick Rolled it"
Or the buffoonish Roderick"
Could be PG Wodehouse characters!
Lots of Bills, a couple of Elizabeths, and of course Roderick Glossop.
There is a corduroy-like fabric called "Bedford Cord".
Italic can refer to slanted writing or typefaces, but also to ancient Italy (as distinct from ancient Greece). Lots of "-ic" words in this song.
The titular seal has an ancient inscription linked with Babylonia also found on limestone in deep dark Wales, which references men "forced to put on the flesh of reptiles or snakes" There is an horrific backward-farmhand tentacle incident. A great little story.