Well, here it is.
As close to the perfect song the earth has provided my humble ears hitherto.
So – out of the tens of millions of published songs in existence, how can I be so arrogant and exclusive as to single out this song, even from the rich spectrum provided over the last 100 days?
Well – let’s break it down.
Of all the things I’ve been blabbing about over the last 3 and a half months, this epic masterpiece excels in all. I’m talkin’ production, lyricism, delivery and phrasing, adventurousness, mystique, self-deprecation and sheer indefinable spirit – this song hits and exceeds all watermarks.
Lyrically – it follows a simple device of comparing the protagonist to someone else, depicting himself in the negative light; pedestalising the ‘other’. He’s the one with narrow vision, while his object of inspiration has effortlessly experienced enlightenment. The central metaphor this is hung around is the fact he ‘sees the crescent’ but the other ‘saw the Whole Of The Moon’. It boasts some mind-blowing lines: ‘I saw a rain-dirty valley / you saw Brigadoon’. ‘I pictured a rainbow, you held it in your hands’, ‘I spoke about wings, you just flew’ – just three of many. The imagery is simply remarkable.
Production wise – everything is thrown at this.
I’m not going to pick it apart minutely here; but suffice to say – at 3.53; on the lyric ‘came like a comet’ along comes the sound effect of a comet flare; like literal fireworks! Those regal trumpets that enter majestically at 2.00. Listen on headphones; the trumpet on the left channel, answers/echoes that on the right. The layered sounds in the background generally. A sax solo coda – normally naff, just works perfectly here. There’s so much going on – it generously rewards with repeated listens.
Phrasing and delivery – it’s an odd arrangement, almost alluringly uncomfortable to listen to. There’s even an odd rap-phrased verse at 3.30, ‘Unicorns and cannonballs, palaces and piers, Trumpets, towers, and tenements, wide oceans full of tears’. The following line and its phrasing ‘every precious / dream and vision / underneath the stars’ gets me every time. It merely confirms the sheer adventuress-ness employed here.
Mystique – The Other. Who is it? Over the years it’s been claimed and disregarded as a paean to (variously) Prince, CS Lewis – it’s quite likely it’s about no-one in particular, but I love the questioning it has evoked over the years, imbuing the song with a strong legacy.
So – I think this selection will surprise a lot of people. It surprises even me sometimes. The cheesy keyboards are not something I would immediately warm to.
The Waterboys (well, it’s essentially Mike Scott, the core of the band) aren’t a band I covet. I own a Greatest Hits only – that’s it. It’s not as if I’m a Waterboys completist like I am for artists like oasis, You Am I, Darren Hanlon and more (speaking of Darren Hanlon – check out ‘Yes, There Is A Slight Chance He Will Actually Fail’ – it’s like an Oz-indie re-imagining of this song). I bought the Greatest Hits after hearing The Whole Of The Moon on a compile of 80’s indie/goth.
I’ve listened to everything else on that Greatest Hits probably twice only. In fact, I actively try not to listen the other songs. The simple fact is – I don’t need to hear another Waterboys song.
This is perfect.
I try not to listen to live versions – I adore the studio perfection encased in this.
If the Waterboys, authors of my favourite song of all time, played the State Theatre next week – it’s probable I wouldn’t attend, in the aim of preserving my perception of this song as flawless.
Why gild the perfect lily?
Give yourself the time to immerse your aural receptors in the grandeur, the over-the-top production, the lofty aspirations, the epic ambition on display here to create the worlds greatest anthem. Revel in how, on the dartboard of aural perfection – this hits the bulls-eye, with every masterful note.