All those who mind entitle themselves,
and whose main entitle is themselves,
shall feel the wrath of my bombast! (1)
Feel the wrath of my bombast!
Eat death! Bombast! Bombast
Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Eat death, Bazhdad!
Those who dare mix real life with politics
And go on regardless of the...of the discoveries
Will feel the wrath of bombast
Inclining in my heart
All those who mind entitle themselves
and whose main entitle is themselves
shall feel the wrath of bombast!
The song iis delivered as though it were an announcement, a proclamation, a statement of intent, a declaration that it is impossible to misconstrue...except, of course, that it doesn't make any sense at all at first blush, and subsequent blushes reveal a number of possible construals. This is one of the idiosyncracies of the Fall: the component of a Rock song that ought not to contain any subtleties or misdirections never winds up being straightforward in a Fall song. What are we to make of this opening statement? What is it to "mind entitle" oneself, or is "mind" the subject of the sentence? If the former, should it be "mind-entitle"? If the latter, should "Mind" be capitalized, to indicate that it is some sort of entity, or an allusion to Hegelian Geist? (The Lyrics Parade, by the way, has "whose mind entitles themselves," which clears up some of the ambiguity, but I have transcribed it exactly as it is pronounced.) This initial phrase, however, is clear as day compared to what follows: "whose main entitle is themselves." "Entitle" is never a noun in the English language, at least not in the official version found in dictionaries. Does it mean "Whose main entitlement is themselves"? Or maybe "whose main entitler"? "Feel the wrath of my bombast" is pretty straightfoward compared to all this, but again, it brings us up short: "bombast" is not usually a term that's boastingly self-applied, since it is a term of deprecation, and the tone here is definitely not self-critical or reflective. And, not to niggle, but does he mean that the bombast itself is wrathful, or (what seems more likely) that he is bombastically wrathful? The strange thing about this statement, beyond all these questions of semantics, is the fact that it awakens such questions at all; rather than escorting the fist-pumping, headbanging listener into the body of the song with a sense of unity and purpose, "Bombast" opens with a humorous, ungrammatical, multivalent announcement presented as though it were a rallying cry along the lines of Manowar's "Let each note I now play be a black arrow of death sent straight to the hearts of all those who play false metal!" Manowar is, of course, a band entirely lacking in subtelty, whatever their other virtues, and this is the Fall.
In any case, the most straightforward interpretation of the lyrics I can muster, assuming all solecisms and ironies are incidental, would be something like the following: "All those who are entitled in their own minds, and whose only source of entitlement is themselves, are in for an overdose of vitriol." This interpretation treats the lyric like a riddle, something expressed a little infelicitously, but which yields its meaning after a few moments of reflection. If that were the case, the lyric would fail miserably; an opening salvo in a song like this should not require reflection if it's merely making a declaration like my paraphrase. In fact, however, the lyric works in just the opposite way: on first hearing it, one has a tendency to think MES is saying something like the above, but upon reflection one's confidence dissolves, and the questions begin. Taking the role of addressee for a moment, I ask: Does my mind entitle myself? Does Mind entitle myself? Do I do something called "mind-entitling," i.e. entitling myself with my mind? What is my "main entitle?" Is it what I'm entitled to? Is he suggesting, then, that I'm not entitled to myself--that my self is something I must rather somehow earn? Or is my self meant to be the guarantor of what I'm entitled to, and MES is questioning whether it is a legitimate authority in the matter? Does "bombast" just mean the heavy sound of an angry band, or is he mocking himself? Musically, and lyrically in what follows, the song is a little heavy-handed as Fall songs go; but by proclaiming himself bombastic, MES seems to be sounding a humorously self-deprecating note, introducing a little bit of irony by calling the song bombastic, and this has the effect of saving the song from actually being bombastic. Indeed, the overall effect of these opening lines is to dampen the overdone quality of the music and lyrics by calling attention to it, and the result is a song that works much better than it would if it began with a more conventional lyric. And the effect of these opening lines goes on working right through the song, in which cries of "Bastard! Idiot!" that would sound trite in the mouth of your average heavy metal singer are actually imbued with just enough subtety and irony to keep the whole thing from feeling dull; by calling the song bombastic in the opening lines, MES saves the song from being merely bombastic.
The song apparently predicts the Gulf War, it should be noted! From Harleyr:
I found the quote I was thinking of in an old scrapbook. From (I think) an old NME. Didn't take a note of the date... the Gulf Crisis particularly irks him. "They should have done something about it a fortnight ago, they should have zapped the bastard when they had the chance. What really disgusts me is that they only start doing something about it when the oil flow is affected - they get near the Saudi Arabian border and something gets done. It's the same as with Hitler. They've left it too late." Meanwhile, Band Aid and Live Aid still stick in his craw. "Sending money to Ethiopia was crazy... just like sending money to Hitler. None of the starving people ever saw it. But I say these things and people call me racist. The weird thing is that 'Bombast', from 'This Nation's Saving Grace', predicted it all - it's like all about Baghdad and bombs raining down. It was the same with 'Terry Waites Says' (sic). The poor bugger gets kidnapped and shit. It's like pre-cog, and we had his brother ringing my publisher asked how did he know... Or worse." "I write these words, and they sound good. But when they come true, it's really weird," he admits. "But if I have any powers of precognition I don't want to develop it, I don't want to get into that shit."
Grottyspawn points out the version from The Tube, Channel 4 TV, 8th November 1985, where MES begins: "All those who mind yarbles themselves and whose main end title [sic] is themselves shall feel the wrath of my bombast." Note that here he very distinctly pronounces "bombast." This is currently available on Youtube, and the link is in the comments below.
2. If that's what he says. For a discussion of this "word," see Guest Informant, particularly note 1. According to Fit and Working Again, "The Blackwing version on the boxset begins; 'Bazhdaddy Boogie!'
Based on listening to a few versions I suggest the refrain is variations on;
Bazhdads, inclining in my heart,
Bazhdads, declining in my heart,
Bazhdads, in death, feel the wrath of my bombast"
3. Dan points out that "Eat Death" is the title of a flourescent tube sculpture by Bruce Nauman (1972):
Also from Dan:
"Eat Death" might be echoed in Milton's Paradise Lost (Book 9):
Greedily she ingorged without restraint,
And knew not eating death.