Sons of Temperance

Lyrics

(1)

The firmament is both my enemy and my friend (2)
One other thing's for sure - division in my soul
Punk art person was you my son
You're an androgynous piece of slop

Roll up! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance

Present crypto-moralist nation

Over the mountain lies the valley
Of sweet silence (3)
Dark distortions of the past
And the reconstruction of your new life

Firmament is both my enemy and madness
One other thing's for sure - division in my soul
The abolition of your mind and your brain and your soul
Voila

Roll up! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance

Present crypto-moralist nation

Over the mountain lies the valley
Of sweet silence
Dark distortions of the past
And the restructure of your new life (4)

Notes

1. The Sons of Temperance was a fraternal organization, formed to further alcohol temperance, that was founded in the US in 1842 and imported to Britain in 1849.

This song is concerned with the tension, and the mutual implication, of discipline and ecstasy; the difference between the narrator and those he attacks is the way in which the two are combined (which is the difference between an overt hedonist who is a "crypto-moralist" and a disciplined and even Puritanical seeker of transcendence).  This is a central theme for the Fall, whether in lyrics, interviews, or seemingly even in practice, although it is never approached entirely directly and, thus, may even seem to be a pet theme of my own that I've attached to the lyrics. In my defense I can only say that I did not initially approach Fall lyrics with this idea in mind and, as far as I know, Fall lyrics are my original source for the idea. If you want to read me letting my hair down, so to speak, my notes for "New Puritan" are unhampered by any consideration for the patience of the reader or the sanity of the author, and pursue the theme of the relation between work and transcendence as far as I felt like going. "New Puritan" is a thematic companion-piece to this song; many Fall songs are, but this one is especially so. These lyrics should not be approached without consulting "New Puritan" and, if it's not presumptuous to suggest, my notes for the latter; I will not bloviate much here about matters already bloviated about there. 

The "Testa Rossa" outtake contains the kick ass line "The Worm is both my enemy and brother..."

^

2. "Firmament" can mean the vault of the heavens, Heaven, or a firm and stable foundation. If we take it in the first sense, it could mean the stars are both for and against the speaker, which harks back to themes from "Two Librans": astrology, and the duality of Libra (see also the next line, "division in my soul"). Any one of the three definitions could provide the starting point for a plausible interpretation. It seems most likely to me, however, that "firmament" means a strong foundation or a structure, the kind of ambiguous Puritanism that MES limns out in "New Puritan," to which this song is a kind of sequel. Some variant lyrics allow us a small handhold on this interpretation, though a uncertain one due to the fact that the various lyrics, here and on the demo and live versions, seem to weave a thematic web without ever congealing into a clear statement. The live version on Disc One of Touch Sensitive ends with MES singing, "Without form, without structure, in rectangle and pentangle." This could be an illusion to an invoked spirit, although a circle and pentangle would in that case fit better. The version on Disc Three begins, "The enemy is in the firmament of my soul/The enemy is in my soul..." This pushes me toward the third definition of firmament given above as the most plausible literal and immediate way to take the line. 

^

3. The Western Cym, a valley at the foot of Mount Everest, is also often called "The Valley of Silence." Climbers who take the southeast route to the summit begin by traversing this valley. There is a poem by the Scots poet Fiona Macleod, a pseudonym for WIlliam Sharp (1855-1905), called "The Valley of Silence" which begins, "In the secret Valley of Silence/No breath doth fall;/No wind stirs in the branches/No bird both call..." Sharp, like W.B. Yeats, Arthur Machen and Aleister Crowley, was a member of the magical order The Golden Dawn. Shakespeare's 30th sonnet begins, "When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past." The last phrase was adopted as a title by the first two English translators of Proust's À la recherche du temps perdu (literally, In Search of Lost Time).

^

4. MES liked this ungrammatical statement enough that he decided to repeat it, and indeed it is an echo of a lyric from 1980's "Putta Block": "The complete restructure of your pretentious life."

 

The demo version of "Sons of Temperance" has some different lyrics:

Had two weeks to view
To the blockage of
Two weeks

Present
(Has week to two view)
(Has week to two view)

The one
Is both my enemy
And brother
To

(The ... all around. Devilry... and sweet...)
Temperance

Has week to view
Has two weeks to view
To the blockage of
Twelve percent interest
And children
Sidetracked
Voila! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance
Voila! Sons of temperance

^

Comments (9)

dannyno
  • 1. dannyno | 24/05/2014

"You're an androgynous piece of slop"

I'm hearing "androgynous pizza slob"

bzfgt
  • 2. bzfgt | 28/05/2014

This has been kicked around and hashed out: http://z1.invisionfree.com/thefall/index.php?showtopic=35211
in the days when you thought it was "PC slob."

I changed it once or twice and, like you, changed my mind about it until I eventually came back around to "piece of slop." I do hear "slob," but it sounds like it could be a slurry "slop." The clincher is that "Octomom" has a (clearer) "piece of slop." Of course, he is not averse to messing around with phrases like that, but it was a judgment call and I decided that, without really knowing what it is if it's something else, it seems like the best bet to put it as "Octomom" has it. Live versions are no help on this one since they have different lyrics, at least this is so on the Touch Sensitive sets.

dannyno
  • 3. dannyno | 08/09/2014

Fair enough :-)

Kms
  • 4. Kms | 03/06/2015

Walking down Blackfriars Road in South London once I was struck by the Sons of Temperance Friendly Society building here:
http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/7249

It stands out from its surroundings in a very striking way, looks like a very Fall kind of location, and I immediately thought that spotting this building might have been one origin for the song.

More fancifully, the idea of a Victorian, masonic-type temperance society operating underground for years and then emerging to run the 'crypto-moralist' Blair government (then contemplating the smoking ban) from secluded offices in South London is quite appealing, though no such plot is really detectable in the lyrics.

Martin
  • 5. Martin | 08/04/2016

Small typo in "reconstruction".

Zack
  • 6. Zack | 18/02/2017

Re: "On the night out of the valley" -

I hear this as "Over the mountains lies the valley."

bzfgt
  • 7. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

Zack, I have often thought this myself, in fact every time I listen to it without looking at the lyric. When I listened with the printed lyric, I always thought "Well it's indistinct, I must be mishearing it." But of course, it could be the case that this is the correct lyric, since we don't have a reliable source. I will listen again now armed with the knowledge that this is what you also hear. If it's not clear, I don't know what to do...sometimes these things get decided by inertia--the first thing to get written down gains authority because it feels like more of an intervention to change it, even if there's no good reason to prefer one over the other. So, if there's a 50% chance a lyric is one thing or another, the first thing someone writes down gets to be canonical by way of just being there...

bzfgt
  • 8. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

You'd think the Testa Rossa version would be helpful since it's less produced, but the vocals there are almost inaudible. But it does need a transcript--for now, I just added that it contains the totally kick ass line "The worm is both my enemy and brother." That might be my all-time favorite lyric now, it's so absurd and kind of laughable but also evocative at the same time...it doesn't so much seem to mean something as it just acts like it means something really kick ass without meaning anything.

bzfgt
  • 9. bzfgt | 25/02/2017

We won't be weighed down by the dead hand of the past--I changed it, if there are any objections we'll take it from there.

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