Cliffe Parade, Berger, and Home Building

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Without a home at the center of the real, one was not only shelterless, but also lost in non-being, in unreality. Without a home everything was fragmentation.

Home was the center of the world because it was the place where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one. The vertical line was the path leading upwards to the sky and downwards to the underworld. The horizontal line represented the traffic of the world, all the possible roads leading across the earth to other places. Thus at home, one was nearest to the gods in the sky and to the dead in the underworld. This nearness promised access to both. And at the same time, one was at the starting point and, hopefully, the returning point of all terrestrial journeys. (56)

-John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

Cliff Parade is a peculiar object that sums up Berger’s thoughts on home with neatness and precision of pillow settings: “Home was the center of the world because it was the place where a vertical line crossed with a horizontal one.” The lyricism and the title of the song, as well as the video footage used for the Lines concert, work in tandem to create a world where horizontal lines and vertical lines alternate rapidly and bathe in blinding redness to extrude the painful illusion of home. The rapid succession of vertical and horizontal lines never quite appear on screen simultaneously; in other words, they never bisect each other to create a cross, a point of return, a home. or rather it seems as if they never create a home.

It is as if Nell imagined you a marching band that weaves through city streets, bisecting across the town as the occasion would have it. It staunchly marches onward, never fearing what is in front of its path.

I can understand why the prevailing concensus on the song’s meaning or implication is that of death, suicide and macabre. It is an easy reading and it is evident on the surface. However, I do not think it is that simple. Even in Nell’s song about Euthanasia (After Glow), the prevailing topos of the song was that of “circumvention”, the trip to come around, return over and over again to the same spot. It was that of journey but also simultaneously of stagnation. The death, or self-death in this case and that of Cliff Parade, was merely a metaphor. Metaphor gave them time to work things out. It was of release but also of freedom that came with remaining behind among the living so that “I” could spend more time with “You”. Metaphor stopped time and allowed them to converse, perhaps one last time. It is a magic-eye, the trompe l’oeil both in language and vision. However, it is a sincere trickery not unlike a magician’s magic trick that makes a child smile.

On that note, I would suggest that reading Cliff Parade as a suicide song is a terribly shallow reading that does not account John Berger’s intertext.

Instead I would like to propose an alternate reading of Cliff Parade’s thanatos (the death drive) as a home-building exercise; this particular reading and the literal manoeuvring can be adopted in understanding the M/V (lee minki’s character’s death/suicide) for And, Things Left Behind. If we concede to Berger’s reading that having a home means having a point of return, the precise geolocation of soul, so to speak, then the listeners can read JW’s invocation of “Let it crash” as the desire to return home. By crashing downward, by taking that last step over the cliff, the vocalizer can bring together the verticalness of falling and horizontalness of marching.

“Whether if it’s a hope at the end of the cliff
Or just a just a dead end
It was my salvation and yet a different death
The twisted shadow
Let it crash”

The fate sealed is that of death, however, the death is not a damnation and instead is of hope, and salvation. In this final verse of the song, the salvation (hope) and death (the end) are “mingled and entwined”.

Cliff Parade in its bleakness and blithe, the joy of marching, actually sings of home and one’s desire to return home.

This home certainly can be of something that one misses; memories, places, persons.

But I believe, or rather would like to read the song as, the underlining message of the song is that we need to take that leap, the final step over the edge, in order to return home, to find that person, and to revisit that memory. It may be as painful as death, but without taking that chance there will be no returning, no growth.

It is not a song of damnation and end, bur rather a song of return, restart and hope.

“Let it crash,” JW sings.

*Along this line, the M/V and Lee Minki’s character’s death can be better understood as amalgam of the desire to return home, to return to the memory, and more so as the return to the contour of “you”. The last freeze frame of the camera within the M/V, in all its self-awareness, marks it as a moment of aesthetic that allows one to return, travel upstream through time.

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