Life can only be understood backwards but it must be lived forwards.
– Soren Kierkegaard (Danish philosopher, theologian, poet and social critic)
I was told a few days ago by a considerably younger person that the world is a wonderful place. No sorry, she said that her world is a wonderful place, which I instantly found both slightly irritating as well as rather amusing. I tried arguing that sometimes the world is indeed a lovely place and sometimes it isn’t – but to no avail. The person opposite to me had decided that nothing bad would ever happen to her and that no evil would ever touch her. Believe it or not, she actually said that. In fact, she was so convinced about this that she closed her ears from everything I was telling her and refused to think in any other way. I gave up and smiled. After all, I had been young and naïve once myself. We all fall off our high horse at some point, each and every one, life makes no exceptions when it comes to falling from grace. I wish it did but it doesn’t. And as our track of the week, “The Bar At The End Of The World” by Poppet, suggests, once life has smacked us around and showed us its real face, we usually end up feeling like idiots, reworking our notions of reality.
From the very beginning, “The Bar At The End Of The World” paints a grim sonic picture with pulsating keyboards, hypnotic rhythm and menacing guitars. This is not a happy song but rather a song that, despite its modern production gimmicks, takes you back to the psychedelic era of the late sixties. And even though the bar at the end of the world is most likely a hell of a lot further than in Height Ashbury, the feeling you get when you close your eyes is that that’s where you are. The vocals are as eerie as the rest of the track and the decision to bring the melody down an octave in the middle eight really works to great effect. While rather different as a song, the feel of this track resembles that of “White Rabbit” by Jefferson Airplane: It’s ghostly, ethereal and bone-chilling in some parts.
The lyrics are equally strong – they stand on their own. You can enjoy them as part of the song or you can read them as if you were reading an esoteric poem. As far as I am concerned, this is the ultimate proof of quality. If a set of lyrics is strong enough to exist without the music, then it’s a bloody brilliant set of lyrics. This is indeed the case with our track of the week.
I heard on the news our death is assured
The sun will burn out in some millions of years
I heard from the sound of the children I passed
How glad they all feel running round on their own
If time held a promise, I´d reach out and take it
Hold to myself and never forsake it
Sitting here like an idiot
Alone in the bar at the end of the world
This is very vivid imagery and a clear message reminding the listener of the realities of our existence: nothing lasts forever, not even the world. These lines create a stark contrast between the happy “sound of the children” and what is more or less the extinction of all life on earth. While the children play unaware of the darkness that’s waiting for them around the corner and grownups shut out the unpleasant realities of life, the sun will slowly keep evolving towards its red-giant phase. And while none of this will happen any time soon, the above lines really do portray the basic predicament of life well, don’t they? The ultimate questions is: How do you keep going on about your daily routines and enjoying life when you know that you and everybody you love will die one day?
Here’s what the author of the lyrics, Anton du Biél, had to say about the song:
It was inspired by the tragedy of the transience of beauty and nostalgia for infantile optimism, as expressed by some forms of religion, the enlightenment, and irritating positive thinking fads.
I know I wouldn’t mind being able to return to the time I still had an ounce of infantile optimism left in me. Those were easier times. Back then, I actually believed in the basic goodness of man. Most of you will laugh but I thought that most marriages last, that people are honest and loyal, and that the average life expectancy is not just some mathematical average (some people live past 90, while others don’t even see their teens).
To me, the bar at the end of the world is not an actual place. It’s more like heartbreak hotel. There is no physical road or path that will lead you to the entrance. No, the road that leads you past the broken neon sign that hangs crooked by the door and says “open” is comprised of wrong decisions and bad luck. Mind you, it’s not a happy place but the thing that makes it addictive is the fact that you’ll fit right in. The patrons are very much like you. Each broken heart might be a bit different but the thing that unites them is that they are all broken. Just remember, the longer you stay at the bar, the deeper you sink. So my advice to you is this: If you only just arrived, put your drink down and leave – while you still can. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck. How do I know? Well, let me get myself another drink and I’ll tell you all about it.
You can learn more about Poppet here:
About the curator - Tommi Tikka
Tom Tikka is a linguist, poet, professional songwriter, recording artist and a music aficionado. He started playing guitar when he was four and writing songs when he was six. Consequently, he doesn't remember a time when he wasn't playing or writing. It's fair to say, music and lyrics are not just something he loves to engage himself in; to him, they are a way of life.