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Floodland

I really don't think I'm dystopian at all. No more than I'm utopian. The dichotomy is hopelessly old-fashioned, really. What we have today is a combination of the two, with all the knobs turned up to max.
William Gibson - interview, Spike Magazine


Floodland - album

The title of the album is probably influenced by T S Eliot's The Wasteland. The Flood (see also Flood I and Flood II) is obviously biblical in source, though it also refers to the possible fate of Hamburg (Eldritch's adopted home town) after a nuclear strike - such a blast could cause a massive tidal wave. These images are used as a dual metaphor for the album in the context of Eldritch's Machiavellian power struggle with The Mission following the dissolution of the 1985 version of the The Sisters, and for Eldritch's problematic love life. Floodland marked the return of The Sisters of Mercy, though in a much changed form, and many of the songs are contemplative in nature, viewing with Eldritch's trademark objectivity the wreckage of the previous few years. Hence, the floodland is the flotsam and jetsam of these twin apocalypses.

Dominion

"Some day...some day everything you ever needed is just gonna fall out of the sky" - introducton to the song by Eldritch, Reading Festival, August 1991

In the heat of the night

...is a 1967 film directed by Norman Jewison and starring Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier. Though the film's themes are not directly related to Dominion's subject matter, it seems likely that Eldritch had the film in mind when writing this line.

On the lone and level/ Sand stretch far away.

This is a quotation from Percy Bysshe Shelley's (1792-1822) sonnet Ozymandias. Ozymandias recounts the tale of a "traveller from an ancient land" who encounters the remains of a "colossal wreck". Ironically, all that remains is a pedestal with the words "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:/Look on my works ye mighty and despair!". Shelley's theme is Eldritch's: the transient, destructive nature of power.

"I'm not a fan of Shelley, but Ozymandias is a powerful and ever-topical image: seemed a shame to waste it" - Eldritch, [C10]

Just in case anybody needed a helping hand with this one, a heavily re-mixed version of Dominion was entitled Ozymandias and included on the limited edition box-set 12" and cassette of Dominion.

The " lone and level" quote also appears in This Corrosion, although in a modified form.

In the meeting of mined.

The more obvious spelling is `mind' (also `hold hold and sway' - one can hold and sway a mind), so why `mined'? The `mined' may be those who are the victims of the powerful, those whose talents are extracted and used for other's enrichment; those who are the subjects of the Dominion. The `meeting of the mined' could be likened to a political rally where the powerful hold and sway the mined's minds.

Streets of shame

The UK's newspapers used to have their headquarters in Fleet Street, London. This became known as the `Street of Shame', so this might be a dig at the media in general and their role in subjugating the public. Alternatively, it could be a reference to the Reeperbahn.

In the betting of names on gold to rust.

"Gold to rust" is obviously the corrosion of an ideal (similar to Mother Russia's "Gold to chrome"). I am not sure what `betting of names' refers to. A best guess is that it refers to Lloyds' Names: Lloyds Register of Shipping is the world's oldest insurance company, and works by using rich individuals to underwrite it - the Names. They each sign over some part of their huge wealth to the company, in return for a share in the huge profits. Gold doesn't rust, and they feel safe - their bets are certain. Of course, the irony is that they choose to overlook the fact that if payouts need to be made to claimants, they also have a share in the losses.

In the land of the blind/Be...king, king, king, king

There's a common saying "in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king". This is not necessarily intended as a positive statement: H.G. Wells wrote a short story "In the Country of the Blind". In this, the sighted man is anything but king - he's unwanted, useless, and treated with total indifference by the blind inhabitants. In the end he goes back where he came from, his perceived advantage having proved to be a liability. All of which gives the line a wonderful twist.

Mother Russia

We serve an old man in a dry season.

This is a reference to T S Eliot's Gerontion, the opening line of which is "Here I am, an old man in a dry month", and the closing line "Thoughts of a dry brain in a dry season". The "old man" in Mother Russia's case being ex-President of the United States and B-Movie star Ronald Reagan. Rotten films, rotten Presidency.

sleepers.

Cold War Soviet agents who assimilated themselves into Western communities, ready to perform heroic acts of insurgency when the call came from the Motherland. In reality, the concept of sleepers was probably more the result of Cold War paranoia than an attempt by the USSR to subvert the American dream, hence "dreamers of sleepers".

There's a lighthouse in the middle of Prussia.

Prussia was an independent state prior to the (original) unification of Germany. The capital of Prussia was Berlin. In wall-era Berlin, the East Berlin skyline was (and still is) dominated by a TV tower, the Fernsehturm, which was built as a visible symbol of Communist technical prowess (the use of a TV tower for this propaganda purpose is particularly ironic) in direct competition to West Berlin which was a shop window for Capitalism (on the Kurfurstendamm literally so). Hence Berlin is Europe in microcosm, prostituted in a propaganda war by the two superpowers (see Eldritch quote, 'Mother Russia rain down' below). More acutely, Berlin sums up the Mutually Assured Destruction thesis of the Cold War: neither side could launch a nuclear strike on Berlin without destroying one of their own major cities at the same time.

A white house in a red square.

The White House in Washington DC is the official residence of The President of the United States. Political power in Moscow is concentrated around Red Square; apart from the Kremlin, there is also a White House close to Red Square. The Moscow White House used to house the assembly of the Russian Federation.

A Kino Runner for the DDR

Kino is the German for film / cinema. Keno is an American game similar to that cultural icon of the UK, Bingo (it doesn't sound as intellectually demanding, though - someone else checks the numbers for you...). A Keno Runner is a person who moves between tables collecting bets ("like a financial Blade Runner for the polyester masses of the mid-west" - Edward Bax). DDR is Deutsche Demokratische Republik, viz. East Germany.

the fifty-two daughters of the revolution

There is an American organisation called The Daughters of the Revolution which promotes the American way in all its glory (The Sisters' 1991 Washington gig was at the Daughters of the Revolution Hall in the shadow of the White House). Why there are specfically 52 daughters is unclear: it might refer to Reagan's second term being the 52nd American presidential term, also there are 52 playing cards which would fit in with the gambling motif mentioned above.

A special feature: Why 52?

turn the gold to chrome

The conversion of Gold to Chrome represents a debasement of an ideal. Both the USA and the USSR were founded on high ideals, which were inevitably ruined and abused by human nature. Eldritch occasionally uses chrome in reference to cars ("there will always be people whose only worry is where the next layer of chrome will come from for their car"), so in this case the Gold to Chrome would seem represent the implementation of the American idea of freedom (Gold) as the ability to own a motor car (Chrome). The car, of course, is the ultimate capitalist status symbol: a massively dangerous beast that fucks up the planet, but underpins the world economy. Andrew Eldritch currently drives a Dodge Viper.

Gold is also emblematic of Russia, and the wealth left over from the monarchy after the Bolshevik Revolution: years later Russia would be forced to change to a cheap, crass, chrome-plated capitalist styled economy.

Gift...

Gift is the German for poison, and a deeply fabulous spaghetti-industrial album by The Sisterhood.

Stuck inside of Memphis with the mobile home.

This is a pun on a Bob Dylan song Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis blues again. Relaxed gaming laws in Tennessee mean that Memphis is a Mecca for Keno junkies. Memphis is also the birthplace of Blues, Rock & Roll and Elvis Presley. More than enough for it to deserve the Chernobyl treatment.

Mother Russia rain down.

Mother Russia was inspired by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Over to Mr. Eldritch:

" I made the mistake of getting caught in central Europe when Chernobyl started sprinkling it's residue over the land. It's [Dominion/Mother Russia] part of my hate/hate relationship with America. I just had the idea of all them huddled in their mobile homes while Mother Russia rained down on them. They deserve it. I suppose the song is really about the prostitution of Europe by the Americans." [ATF]

External Links

  • Frequently asked questions about the game of Keno.

Flood I

Flood I begins with a quiet guitar drone, and on the album this is mixed in with the closing Sturm und Drang Wagnerian chant of Mother Russia rain down! from Mother Russia. Mother Russia's radioactive rain (and whether this is viewed literally or figuratively as a hail of Soviet missiles raining down is largely irrelevant) can therefore be seen as the cause of the Flood.

And her hallway...

Halls and hallways feature at especially dramatic moments in some of The Sisters' more libidinous songs. Some Kind of Stranger has "I'll settle any time for unknown footsteps in the hall outside", in Ribbons "her lovers queued up in the hallway/I heard them scratching at the door". Tenders are invited from sound Freudian psychoanalysts to sort this one out.

At the head of the river/At the source of the sea

Hamburg, at the head of the river Elbe.

Sitting here now in this bar for hours/ Trying to write it down

The Eldritch Creative Writing Process involves sitting in Hamburg bars furtively writing notes on paper napkins, and then trying to make sense of them and the concomitant headache the following morning.

strange men rent strange flowers

Over to Eldritch again:

"What happens in Hamburg is that, at two in the morning, these Turks come round the bars selling roses to couples who aren't quite couples yet but might be by half past two. I rather liked the idea that these couples could rent these flowers until they became couples then they could give them back and they would be recyclable. The Turks would make more money and the couples wouldn't get burdened with these thorny things. Actually, I think it's a metaphor for ephemeral love." [ATF]

Sackcloth and Ashes

A medieval form of penitence, popular with monks and other religious types, which involved wearing sackcloth and presumably doing something with ashes. Collins Dictionary has it as "public form of extreme grief".

Stolen guitars

"The bitter comes out better on a stolen guitar/you're the blessed, we're the Spiders From Mars" - Hang On To Yourself, David Bowie (from the fabulous Ziggy Stardust album). Eldritch is a noted Bowie fan and often cites seeing Starman (also from Ziggy Stardust) on Top of the Pops as the reason why he became a rock star.

Lucretia, My Reflection

"My welcome on board Patricia song"

Lucretia

Lucretia Borgia is the obvious reference, but it might also be referring a number of other historical Lucretias. Eldritch: "Patricia always strikes me as a Lucretia-type person". [ATF] The Family Borgia were notorious power freaks operating in renaissance Italy, famous for their unscrupulous operating techniques, and much admired by Machiavelli. Lucretia Borgia was a notorious poisoner, c.f. Gift.

Hot metal and Methedrine

Methedrine is a form of amphetamine and is apparently best taken intravenously. 'Hot metal' is probably a reference to the needle, though it might be something to do with guns. The comparison between guns and drugs is a typical Eldritch riff, notably "a gun for a lover and a shot for the pain inside" from Temple of Love.

"The drug of choice is Methedrine. It's like the eighth gear. I remember taking it once in Chicago, and waking up a week later wondering what had happened in between" - Eldritch (unknown source, quoted on the Dominion mailing list).

"A former proprietary name for an amphetamine, methylamphetamine hydrochloride, a soft drug, but used by drug addicts." - Chambers dictionary.

Dance the ghost with me

This is probably a reference to Ghost Dance, the band formed by Gary Marx after he left The Sisters. Ghostdance is also a North American Indian movement which sought to achieve unity with the dead / dead souls in order to return to the lifestyle destroyed by the arrival of Europeans. This interpretation ties in with the situation Eldritch found himself in with respect to previous band members, and the arrival of Patricia signalling the return of The Sisters.

A long train held up by page on page

This line makes alot more sense if one thinks about weddings.

A hard reign

"Reign" is a pun on "rain". "A hard rain's a-gonna fall" is a Bob Dylan song.

Once a railroad/Now it's done...

"Once I built a railroad, now it's done. Buddy, can you spare a dime", American song of the 1930s depression. As an aside, 'Buddy Can You Spare A Dime?' was once piped into the Leeds DHSS offices where it was no doubt warmly received by the punters!

1959

"My favourite, yeah. I still don't know how this song really arrived. It just sort of got there and I must say I'm still marvelling at it somewhat. It's about innocence and ... stuff" - Eldritch [R1L]

1959

Andrew was born on 15th May 1959.

Which way the wind blows

This is probably a reference to the Raymond Briggs book and film 'When the wind blows'. The animated film is a very simple, almost childish, account of the slow death of a husband and wife following a nuclear war. The combination of the childlike innocence of the film's tone and all too adult theme fits in well in the context of 1959.

Isabelle

A girl who wrote to Eldritch suggesting he record a song just with piano and voice.

This Corrosion

Disclaimer: much of the following explanation may seem like an extended and unwarranted dig at Wayne Hussey. In my opinion, every line of this song could be interpreted as attacking The Mission and specifically Hussey. I'd like to say that I personally have no axe to grind, and that the following is just my interpretation of a particularly vicious song - CS.

the Ring

Possibly a reference to the Ring of Niebelung from Richard Wagner's epic ring cycle. The wearer of the ring is conferred huge power, but in return for the power is required to forego human love. The sound of 'This Corrosion' is very Wagnerian: the bombastic, overblown choral chants are typical of Wagner's work.

kissed and toll'd

Kissing a ring is a way of showing deference, especially toward one in power. This is a typical way of greeting the Pope, for instance. "Toll'd" is a way of announcing a death by ringing (tolling) a bell; this is also a pun on 'Kiss and Tell' which is a euphemism for gossiping and petty betrayal. Wayne Hussey's behaviour during The Sisterhood episide neatly fits this description. Hussey can be viewed as laying claim to something that was not his (the Sisterhood name), and then not using the power effectively. The two ways of using the Ring can be likened to the two meanings of this line: Eldritch uses The Ring as a means of ultimate power ("kissed and toll'd"); the bell toll'd for Hussey's version of The Sisterhood, and RCA were forced to kiss Eldritch's in the form of a cheque for 25 grand. Meanwhile, "kiss and tell" is all too descriptive of the embarrassing teary confessional that was typical of The Mission's modus operandi.

And the we'll turn round

Pun on "wheel" and "we'll". This is suggestive of gaining revenge.

Gimme dream child

Eldritch again, impatiently, demands the return of The Ring. The 'dream child' is therefore the possessor of The Ring: Wayne Hussey. It's a very accurate and perceptive description of Hussey.

On the loan and on the level

This is an adaption of the Ozymandias quotation used in Dominion with 'loan' substituted for 'lone'. This probably refers to Hussey's 'loan' of the 'Sisterhood' name; Eldritch is therefore comparing the fate of the Hussey Sisterhood with Ozymandias' colossal wreck. Ouch!

"sing This Corrosion to me".

The 'Corrosion' is sung, and refers to the tarnished version of The Sisters' sound that The Mission were selling ('selling the don't belong').

"On daze, like this".

Obvious pun on 'daze' and 'days'.

"The highered hand".

This is a pun on 'hired' and 'highered'. The 'hired hand' could be an assassin. The 'highered hand' implies a moral authority, although it could mean domineering and dogmatic as in 'high-handed'. I think it's the former as '...hand/On heart' would seem to imply truth and honesty. Either way, ultimately 'This Corrosion' is regenerative as Eldritch closes the song screaming "Like a healing hand".

Flood II

"[Flood II]'s certainly more focussed. 'I' is 'Are you sure we really want to do this?,' and 'II' is 'Yeah, here we go!' In normal circumstances, the raising of arms is a sign of exultation but, if you're surrounded by water, it's complete submission, 'Down we go'. This is both at once." - Eldritch, [ATF]

And her hallway....

See Flood I.

"Bring on the wave".

As discussed above, in a nuclear attack, Hamburg could be obliterated by a tidal wave. Here Eldritch is comparing this form of obliteration with the 'little death' of orgasm.

"Raise your arms"

"It's hard to hold the hand of anyone who is reaching for the sky just to surrender" - The Stranger Song, Leonard Cohen (from the LP The Songs of Leonard Cohen). If you raise your arms in water then you sink. The connection with Cohen's image of raising arms to surrender seems particularly apt. In fact passages of The Stranger Song are reminiscent of many of the Sisters more melancholy songs, particularly Nine While Nine.

"Sitting here now in this bar for hours/Strange men rent strange flowers"

See Flood I.

Driven Like The Snow

"Driven like the snow" c.f. "and the cost of the blood on the driven snow" from Nine While Nine. Both songs are about the defilement of purity. Snow is used primarily as an image of purity, though it may also represent frigidity and drugs. Both DLTS and NWN were inspired by the break up of Eldritch's one and only love affair.

Kill the lights in the middle of the road

c.f. "Then he killed the lights in a lonely lane" - Leonard Cohen, The Master Song (from the LP The Songs of Leonard Cohen)

It don't help to be one of the chosen

c.f. "Where the chosen hold the highest card/On the field of honour where the ground is hard" from `Under the Gun'. It's interesting to compare the difference in attitude of the two songs; in DLTS the chosen is clearly a victim, whereas UtG's chosen is very much the aggressor. This is symptomatic of a general shift in Eldritch's lyrics post-Vision Thing.

One of the few, to be sure

Note the positioning of the comma, implying two ways of reading the line.

When the wheels are spinning around

c.f. "And the we'll turn round..." from This Corrosion.

And given/Away to the west

Obvious double meaning: "given away" in the sense that a bride is given away, and "given a way to the west" in the sense that going west is seen as an escape to freedom. The latter is particularly ironic given the album's strong condemnation of `western' values.

Where the street fold round

c.f. "Where the street fold round and the motors start/And the idiot wields the power" from Under the Gun.

two by two/Took alot to live alot like you

According to the song the animals went into Noah's ark two by two. See the note above on Floodland for the significance of Noah's ark and the biblical flood. This is also a comment on the difficulty Eldritch found in conforming to the idea of being part of a couple.

Some wild idea and a big white bed

The (currently unreleased) Sisters track Come Together has a line "Some wild idea and a big black bomb".

Like lipstick on my cigarette...like think it twice but never never learn...

c.f. "And the lipstick on my cigarettes/Frost upon the window pane" from Nine While Nine.

Heartbreaking.

Never Land (a fragment)

"I had this vision. You know in the summer if you lay on the grass and stare at the sky, you can almost see beyond the stars, but cannot quite get a grip on what's there? Well, sometimes it's very difficult to work out exactly what it is that keeps you pressed between the earth and the sky and why you don't whoosh off into oblivion. Neverland is coming about this the other way: the entire population of the earth starting to travel from some indefinable point in space toward the earth at increasing speed. It would take an eternity to reach the earth - by which time you'd be reasonably spiritualised - and even when you reached the destination, you wouldn't actually hit the ground. You'd be going so fast you'd just go through and out the other side, where there is another eternity of nothingness. I just tried to write a song about these impressions." - Eldritch [ATF]. This is a very strange explanation as it seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics! - CS

a fragment

The demo of the song was originally over 10 minutes long, but was trimmed to a shorter version for the official release. The demo doesn't have any extra lyrics.

I had a face on the mirror

Another drug song...

Ticket to Syria

Damascus is in Syria. Possibly this is reference to the "Road to Damascus" biblical episode, wherein non-believing Saul, travelling to Damascus, has a vision of God, changes his ways and becomes Saint Paul.

Tear it up and watch it fall

Just the perfect closing line.

This Corrosion - single

Torch

Colours

See notes for Colours in the Sisterhood section


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