(Cont.) According to his lyrics, Cobain's delicate dreams of youth were shattered as a child. The Cowboys' lyrics, "I feel the rage comin' off of the stage. I feel the rage comin' off of the page" further illustrates this. "Make a wish, clear your mind, let the years rewind. Poet's pain battles fame and becomes its slave." Many artists don't like the notoriety that being in a rock band generates. Kurt Cobain hated it. If an artist is serious about his or her work, especially if it is a by-product of a tortured psyche, fame is not an objective. If it comes, it can sometimes be difficult to sort things out, and if you're not very strong emotionally, the pressure can make you crack. That's why so many young superstars get messed up so quickly. They literally cannot handle success! In Kurt Cobain's case, it (and the endless, hectic fishbowl life that goes along with it) killed him. "Open mouth, open grave, nothing left to say" is a grim reminder that he is no longer with us. One burning question remains: did he indeed "find God?" "The Struggle" is the second song on the album. It starts out with a solitary wailing guitar (a soul crying out to God?), then the crunch riffs come in, followed by some really good vocals by Ben and Monty. It's about the spiritual struggle against the flesh, and how hard walking the path can be, especially if there's something off that narrow path that you desire. ("Chains made of flesh, shackles of death. Peace to my right, Spirit of life. Just a slave to something I can't stand. It's gonna kill me, kill the inner man.") "Fear Not", the third track, is about facing and overcoming fear. Once again, we harken back to the days of the first album, with the astronaut fearing his impending space walk being used as a metaphor. ("Time to leave the craft, with all my strength I open up the hatch. Parts unknown between the twilight and the
danger zones.") This song can also be taken on face value, since a recurring theme with the Cowboys is that "our future lies beyond this Earth." Of course, that theme itself could be an allegory for spiritual resurrection and everlasting life. Remember, the Galactic Cowboys are Christians. An interesting sidenote: one of the lines in this song is "Fearless will be my name." Was Monty making a reference to "Fearless" on the Pink Floyd album Meddle? "Stress" is the fourth track, and is about (how did you guess?) STRESS!!! This song appears to be about the stress Monty and the band underwent shopping for a new label after Geffen gave them the heave-ho. Some interesting lyrics in this song ("kind hands wrapped around my neck,
sharp teeth biting in my back") are a reference to the Cowboys' former manager, Sam Taylor. The fifth track, "Psychotic Companion" is a parody based on the "Psychic Friends Network" and other psychic phone lines, and illustrates how desperate some people are for direction in their lives - that they would actually consult a total stranger just because he or she claims to be psychic, a phenomenon which has yet to be proven to exist. Track six, "In This Life", seems to be about how frustrating it can be to try to keep doing the right thing all the time in your life, and still live with the reality of the adage, "nice guys finish last." (Which completely contradicts another adage that some of us heard growing up as children, "every good boy does fine.") Basically, this song refers to the old Catch 22 principle, and boils down to the adage, "you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't." "Easy To Love", the seventh track on this album, is a beautiful love song written by Monty in the classic Beatles style.
"Red Sun" is the eighth song on Machine Fish, and the words were written by Ben. I had some ideas about what this song might mean, but I wasn't sure which was right, so I asked Ben (I only do this as a last resort - rock stars get a TON of mail!), and he confirmed my suspicions that it was about his expectations concerning his new life as a musician, as he watched the red sun set behind the Rocky Mountains on his drive west to Los Angeles. Interesting sidenote: As a budding young musician, I (and many others, I'm sure) experienced the exact same thing on my drive West to Los Angeles in 1977. Watching the red sun set behind those majestic peaks inspired me and was a confirmation that I was doing the right thing. "Idle Minds" is track 9. This song is a commentary on "New Age" philosopy and "humanism", two concepts that were popularized in the late 1960s and are experiencing a resurgance today. "Idle Minds" goes hand-in-hand with "Psychotic Companion". This "worldly spirituality" seems all well and good on the surface, but as the lyrics say, it is nothing more than "arrogance of enlightenment with no fear of God almighty", and "idle minds wait for signs out of line". Track 10, "The Lens", is about perceptions. We all view the world differently, each of us through our own peculiar lens. Sometimes, those things which we think we understand, are merely our own preconceived notion of things, and if we look just a little bit deeper, beyond that first layer, we can see the truth ("I see your face as I am looking through the lens. No more disgrace as I am looking through the lens. I see beyond the painted walls of your defense").