The Horrible Fanfare / Landslide / Exoskeleton [Version (a)]:
The Horrible Fanfare
Ashes of ancients
The nations repainted
The chain gang chatelaine
Changing the station
The theme song playing
The anthem of normal
The horrible fanfare
The horns get distorted
On a public annoucement
The towns are impounded
Where the order resounded
Cowards towered around it
Surveilling the night
Talons in flight
The fake horizons ignite
Where hysteria kills
With malaria pills
To buy a star from the night
Wear a scar like a stripe
Send up a signal
To the heavenly rescue
When the poison's coming
From the person you're next to
Let the voltage of thought
Pull the plug from the wound
'Cause if the soul is a sympton
The condition is you
We know it's a letter bomb hand-me-down
This thought is a perjury blindfold
When she crawls from the Himalayan rain
With the birds of prey and weapons on fire
She's ridin' a landslide down to me
Cuttin' the shackles off of me
Shakin' the dead birds from the trees
She's takin' the only air I breathe
Iron lungs and a plate glass sermon
Don't call it death on the installment plan
She's pulling the armour on my back
Raking the coals over the tracks
Taking the knife out from the stack
She's bringing the blood that I have back
She's coming to see it's all a sin
Coming to see the sun again
Coming to wash it off again
Coming to see herself again
Coming to see herself again
Coming to wash it off again
Person 1: I picture like a...like an illuminated manuscript, you know? Made by monks. They hand-do them... in record form. And you'd have to have them handdone each time.
Person 1: Like, depending, like change depending on what mood you're in. Like the best...or depending on like when you assume from a different age, they'll mean something different.
Person 2: I don't like it when they change. It frightens me.
Person 1: You want them to stay the same more?
Person 2: It makes me feel like someone's pushing me from below. Or trying to put me, turn me over, and put me down. That's what it makes me feel like when they change.
Person 1: It has to tell you how to live. It is an instruction guide. It's subtle, It's--it doesn't push, it nudges...i-it entices...it seduces. It has to encompass the whole world, everything that has been, is, and will be, and could take it into space. And that's why we build a spaceship. Because that's ultimately what space travel is all about, is sending a shuttle from Earth into space. And not just in some, like, space shuttle. It's got a little phone coming off of it, you need your own...glowing...you know, multicolor...spaceship. It would be inside the spaceship, and also the spaceship. Like an exoskeleton.
This is the end track on The Information
. It is a medley of sorts, three songs connected in epic fashion by a repeated riff.
The Horrible Fanfare
The first 2:13 of the track is "The Horrible Fanfare," a seemingly political rap. Beck has mentioned how Nigel Godrich convinced him to rap again on this album, and always had him whisper his raps. He clearly did that here. I'm also super-impressed with the words... the meaning may not be specific or obvious, but it flows amazingly well. And there's lots of inner rhymes (just look at the first lines and all the "ai" sounds: "Ashes of ancients the nations repainted / The chain gang chatelaine changing the station / The theme song playing"). Beck then flows into other inner rhymes like this throughout the song.
Also the title "Horrible Fanfare" comes from Arthur Rimbaud's poem "Morning Of Drunkenness," which opens with the lines "O my good! O my beautiful! Horrible fanfare where I won’t stumble!" I've seen different translations which substitute "appalling," "atrocius," "hideous," and "horrible," there. (To note, the final line of the poem is "Behold the time of the assassins
Anyway, what is this horrible fanfare announcing? It seems to be a war to me, with nations and anthems and fake horizons igniting. Beck mentions "talons in flight," which tie the song to "Dark Star
," another political rap on The Information
. Beck called "Dark Star," a song about an "imminent disaster," and it is easy to read "The Horrible Fanfare" similarly. (And in my limited Rimbaud knowledge, I believe he also used the phrase to announce an oncoming disaster.)
Beck explained the bridge between "The Horrible Fanfare" and "Landslide":
"I remember coming into the studio one day and my producer was sitting there listening to [the shipping forceast] on his computer," he says. "I was like, 'What the hell is that?' He told me, 'It's the most relaxing thing in the world.' He said he loves to listens to it in the bath." Beck agreed - "the voices are just so pleasant" - and decided to recreate it on the finale to his new album, The Information, inviting an English friend into the studio to read out the coastal station reports for Tiree, Stornoway and Lerwick (showers at all three). "It kind of matched the mood of the song," he says.
The English friend was the actress, Rachel Shelley. If "The Horrible Fanfare" is about the imminent oncoming disaster, I see this little moment as a tiny calm pause before things get rough.
After that, the track moves into "Landslide."
Beck originally played "Landslide" on stage in 2004. He improvised a song, which we refer to as "Long Way Back From Home
," once as a solo jam, where he used a drum machine and added electric guitar over it. The electric guitar and beat would later be developed into "Landslide."
I see this long piece as a concept, perhaps a microcosmic look at the overall themes. This section is the oncoming disaster, finally arrived (a landslide!). The first describes the situation: letter bombs, mind crimes, weapons on fire, birds of prey (in
Information speak, eagles/talons show up a few times).
The second verse however looks deeper. This disaster has somehow had a freeing effect. The shackles are gone, his life blood is returning. "Coming to see the sun again / Coming to wash it off again" seems to indicate a rebirth, a cleansing.
On a personal note, "Landslide" is one of my favorite Beck songs. I love the words, and the mysterious mix of rock and seductiveness. I feel like though this long track is well-conceived and works, perhaps that "Landslide" was a bit buried in it, lost a little in this concept. It deserves more attention.
"Exoskeleton" is a long ambient kind of thing, in which a conversation between Dave Eggers (an author) and Spike Jonze (video/film director) runs in the background. What did they talk about? Here's Beck:
"We brought them in, and we were going to have a commentary going through the whole album, almost like the two old men in The Muppets. It was hilarious. A heavy beat would kick in and they would go, 'Shit! Listen to that beat! That drummer is so confident!' But we couldn't fit it all in. I asked them, 'What would the ultimate record that ever could possibly be made sound like?' That's what they're going on about. They're saying it would be like an illuminated manuscript, handmade by monks. Or it would be a record that changed every time you listened to it. It was a great conversation."
Played live 18 times:
September 16, 2005September 20, 2005October 8, 2005June 21, 2006June 27, 2006June 28, 2006June 28, 2006August 11, 2006August 12, 2006September 2, 2006
...and 8 more
Earliest known live version: September 16, 2005
Latest known live version: April 8, 2007
The live dates listed above are all for the song "Landslide," which Beck has played alone a number of times. Beck has not touched "Horrible Fanfare" live, nor has he tried "Exoskeleton."
Beck played "Landslide" by itself around 20 times between 2005-2007. It never sounded drastically different from the record, and even for a bit they actually used a tape of the shipping news report to start it off.
Ten of the versions were played before The Information
came out, on the 2005-2006 Guero
tours (in the middle of which Beck took time to finish The Info
). When the album came out in fall of 2006, they did the song a handful more times.
But after one time in Japan in early 2007, the song has been dropped for good.