The War Against Intelligence



The war against intelligence
War versus intelligence
Notebooks out plagiarists (2)
War against intelligence

War versus intelligence
They got a lot of debris yesterday
They stuck out its golden horns
And volunteered its essence
War against intelligence

Hey pseud!
Why did you defect to the other side?
Hey dude!
Give the info a rest and use your mind
Dancing with your Dada mates in the corner
You're such a bloody fool
You think your haircut is distinguished
When it's a blot on the English landscape

Hey dude!
Get your mental bones right outta here!
You! It's beyond your capability
Hey git! In the league of mental short-arse
And you will never recompense
For your war versus intelligence

War versus intelligence
War against intelligence

Hey dude!


1. The story, according to Simon Ford in his MES biography Hip Priest, is that this was intended to be the title track on the album that became Shift-Work but, because of the Gulf War, Smith decided the title was too controversial. This whole story seems strange to me, for several reasons. It is not impossible to imagine MES shying away from controversy, whether for commercial reasons or otherwise, but it doesn't seem entirely likely. But that's not the main reason I find this story mystifying; the big question is, what exactly would the controversy have been? Would people assume that "intelligence" meant Iraq, and that this was an anti-war message? Or that the UN coalition was "intelligence," and MES was too pro-war? That war itself is a war on intelligence, so MES is too anti-war? If controversy was so imminent, why was there none concerning the song (which, after all, was still included on the album with the same title it would have had were it the title track)? Unless I'm just thick, I don't see any grounds for controversy whatsoever involving this song, or the title of this song being used as an album title, and the Gulf War.

If we forget about the Gulf War, however, the lyrics to this one aren't all that mysterious. MES talks about it in a contemporaneous interview with the NME, at the same time confirming Ford's account of his weird qualms about the title's supposed congruence with current events:

"I had a vague title for the LP actually, called 'The War Against Intelligence', and then the Gulf War broke out ... But, there is a war of intelligence going on at the moment. I do genuinely think that, and it's not because I'm particularly intelligent, I just think there is. Intelligence is actively discouraged in all walks of life, the media and all of it.

You think it's getting worse?

"You talk to somebody, a bricklayer for instance. They're simply told to build badly, as opposed to making a f--in proper job out of it. And the blokes that they tell these things to either have to do it or they're out of work. Same with groups, same with everything.

You mean there's a conspiracy going on to downgrade everything?

"It's like an undercurrent, innit? It's like a mental thought. Nobody's doing my work. Nobody likes to have a craft for anything. Nobody likes getting out of bed in the morning. I don't, but sometimes you have to. Nobody likes going to school. Nobody likes reading books. I find books very hard ... Hahahaha... But I read a lot of them ... No I don't actually. Sometimes for weeks on end I just watch telly, and after a bit you go 'What the f-- am I doing here?' Everybody does it."


2. This line is the heading for the second side of Shift-Work (the first side is titled "Earth's Impossible Day," a phrase taken from the DC comic Hawkman).


Comments (1)

  • 1. Mark | 21/05/2014
I like the line "You think your haircut is distinguished / When it's a blot on the English landscape" as I think it refers to the Madchester scene (around the time that this was recorded) and all the daft hairstyles that were around at this time.

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