Monday, June 18, 2012

Original and cover: The Drowning Man

The Drowning Man is a song originally by the Cure from the 1981 album, Faith. This is a song that was not released as a single but remains a favorite to longtime Cure fans such as myself. The Cure has always been a very literate band, referencing books such as Albert Camus' The Stranger (for the song Killing An Arab) and Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer (for the song of the same name), so it comes as no surprise that the inspiration for this song comes from a book as well, in this case, Gormenghast by author Mervyn Peake. Gormenghast is a Gothic/fantasy novel. One of it's main characters is Fushsia Groan. She is describes as follows ""...a girl of about fifteen with long, rather wild black hair. She was gauche in movement and in a sense ugly of face, but with how small a twist might she not suddenly have become beautiful. Her sullen mouth was full and rich -- her eyes smoldered."

She realizes later in the novel that she fell in love with a murderer and contemplates suicide. This situation finds her standing on a windowsill over the waters that had flooded the castle.  Disturbed by someone knocking at the door, she slips and, knocked unconscious by her head striking the windowsill, drowns.

This song is one of the most emotional on this album, which is a really dark album, even for The Cure, possibly rivaled by Pornography. I especially love the twangy guitar and the hopeless lyrics. Faith is an album I can always put on and just drift away and reflect on it's soothing sadness. Here is The Cure version.

There haven't been many covers of this song, probably because it is not one of the best known Cure songs. There is a band called Unto Ashes who has done an excellent cover of it. Unto Ashes is a musical ensemble based in New York City that incorporates madrigal, folk, and elements of neo-medieval and dark wave. They use old style instruments such as the hurdy-gurdy and the hammed dulcimer, not unlike the great Dead Can Dance. They have released over 5 CDs on Projekt Records and are recording a new album currently. They are always a pleasure to listen to and I love their cover songs, Don't Fear The Reaper being one of my favorites. They covered The Drowning Man on their album Grave Blessings and have done the song justice. I love the female vocals on the song and the instrumentation, especially the guitar on the song. Very beautiful and exquisite. Here is their version of The Drowning Man.

and the lyrics:

She stands twelve feet above the flood
She stares
Across the water
The loneliness grows and slowly
Fills her frozen body
Sliding downwards

One by one her senses die

The memories fade
And leave her eyes
Still seeing worlds that never were
And one by one the bright birds leave her

Starting at the violent sound

She tries to turn
But final
Slips and strikes her soft dark head
The water bows
Receives her
And drowns her at its ease
Drowns her at its ease

I would have left the world all bleeding

Could I only help you love
The fleeting shapes
So many years ago
So young and beautiful and brave

Everything was true

It couldn't be a story

I wish it was all true

I wish it couldn't be a story
The words all left me
Breathing like the drowning man

Oh Fushia

You leave me
Breathing like the drowning man
Breathing like the drowning man

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