Hiroshima Mon Amour

Somehow we drifted off too far
Communicate like distant stars
Splintered voices down the ‘phone
The sunlit dust, the smell of roses drifts, oh no
Someone waits behind the door
Hiroshima mon amour

Riding inter-city trains
Dressed in European grey
Riding out to Echo Beach
A million memories in the trees and sands, oh no
How can I ever let them go?
Hiroshima mon amour

Meet beneath the autumn lake
Where only echoes penetrate
Walk through polaroids of the past
Features fused like shattered glass
The sun’s so low
Turns our silhouettes to gold
Hiroshima mon amour

Lyrics © John Foxx.

Thoughts on the text © Martin Smith and translated from birdsong.
Link to the post by all means, but please don’t reproduce the content without permission.

A distant hum. Is it human, or machine? Look, there – something is coming, across the lake. Hard to make out exactly what it is and where it comes from. It has little form to speak of, it’s more of a presence. A mood or an atmosphere. There would appear to be some kind of romantic longing at its heart and it moves with a film-noir elegance – but it certainly has nothing to do with the movie. Not that movie, anyway.

Foxx has asserted that the title of this song may be the same as Alain Resnais’ 1959 anti-war film but he chose the phrase because he liked it, especially the juxtaposition of images created by the words. If JG Ballard made it OK to get some erotic sensation from a car-crash scenario, then lets take it further. What about the idea of falling in love with the atomic bomb…?
He considers the dislocation of war, the fracturing of society and relationships.

“Somehow we drifted off to far…”

His reference to the “splintered voices down the phone” connects with the personal story of an uncle returning from WWII and finding that friends and family had moved on. There was suddenly no-one to connect with. It’s an idea (an indeed similar minimalist phrasing) that he revisits a year later on Underpass. But there’s more to it than that, and the lines have many layers of meaning depending on the listener’s point of entry. Hiroshima is a song of love, longing and loss.

As such, it is a masterpiece of poetic Foxxian multi-media songwriting. Three similar verses, delivered in a voice-over narrative style with very little other dialogue. The clarity and strength of the lyric becomes that of the narrator’s memory, enabling him to travel back in time. As it emerges from the mist on the lake, gently brooding, the song takes the form of a science fiction ‘featurette’, a short film, telling the story of a post-nuclear war experiment in time travel. The lyrics describe a colourful, sensual score, but the photomontage itself is most definitely black-and-white. The verses and music dissolve one into another, a film-making technique creating continuity and rhythm.

Image-075

The narrator describes a relationship that spans both time and distance, recalled through vague and specific romanticised memories. The touch and smells of a new experience or situation evoke recollections of the past and bring them right into the present – a distant lover is suddenly there, behind the door. Glimpsed for a moment. There is a taste of both regret and desire in the twilight of longing, a hope and despair.

Non-chronological temporal displacement?

Evidence of time travel, perhaps?

Nothing sorts memories from ordinary moments.
They claim remembrance when they show their scars.

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