Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Industrialists and Other People

Industrialists is the ninth and final track on People, an album by The Burning Hell (you may remember that I wrote some words about Flux Capacitor, another LP of theirs, a couple of months ago). The song, which clocks in at precisely 7 minutes, takes the form of a eulogy, posthumously telling the story of a young man who...well, did a lot things. Over the course of the track's 420 seconds, he tames a wild horse, starts his own company at the age of ten, buys a property in Mexico, duels a man for his wife, and brings her back to America along with 400 immigrant labourers, whom he then instructs to build a golden pyramid. Oh, and then he's found dead, presumably - although it's not explicitly stated - murdered by a disgruntled employee who was sick of neglecting his family to slave away on some guy's pyramid.

It's quite a tale.

The central character of Industrialists is never named, but we do know that, prior to his gruesome death (he was coated, Goldfinger-style, in the molten gold that the labourers were using to construct his office building), he was fond of reciting this mantra, which also gives the song its chorus and the album its title:

"It takes all kinds of people to make a world,
It takes all kinds of people to make a world,
From the farmer in the field to the spaceman in space,
Everybody has a reason, a purpose and place."

These words are effectively a mission statement for People as a whole: each of the record's nine songs has a title that refers to a specific group of people (e.g. Travel Writers, Barbarians, Amateur Rappers), and by singing about all these different kinds of people, Mathias Kom and his musical mates do indeed "make a world" - or, at the very least, a pretty great album, populated with keenly-developed characters and fun vignettes from their lives.

But that mantra's role within Industrialists itself is somewhat harder to pin down. Our hero utters it at every juncture of the song's narrative: he says it after taming his horse, he deploys it as a pre-mortem one-liner as he kills the Mexican woman's husband, and he even uses it as justification for forcing his workers to make his skyscraping gold pyramid even taller. But what does he mean?

It's not entirely clear; in fact, some of the workers in the song actually lampshade the fact that their boss's favourite saying doesn't make any sense ("Some grumbled, and some were sure those famous words were simply a non-sequitur"). One might even argue that the protagonist is deaf to his own wisdom - after all, it is kind of hypocritical to state that "it takes all kinds of people to make a world" immediately after fatally shooting one of those people - and that the employees carved those words into his tomb not as a tribute but as a stern reminder that he who underestimates the importance of other people is doomed to fail.

Really, though, as much I'm tempted to write a dissertation about Industrialists and what it might mean, the most sensible approach is probably to take a cue from Realists, another song from People. That one has a chorus too, and it goes like this:

"I am what I am,
You are what you are,
A show is a show,
A bar is a bar,
It can't all be caviar and champagne fizz,
Sometimes it just is what it is."

(The Burning Hell aren't subtle with their life lessons, are they? If I were addicted to TV Tropes, I might link to this page, but I'm not so I won't.)

Realists has a lot in common with Mansun's An Open Letter to the Lyrical Trainspotter in that it reminds listeners not too analyse things too much, especially the lyrics of the album you're listening to. I'm usually all for over-analysis things (or 'Album Walling', as my girlfriend Vicky has taken to calling it), but as far as Industrialists is concerned, it's probably best to take the advice of Realists: it is what it is, there's no deeper meaning, and - as the song itself tells us - that stuff about "all kinds of people" is just a meaningless non-sequitur.

Of course, if Mathias or another member of The Burning Hell is reading this, I'd be more than happy to be told I'm wrong and furnished with the true meaning of those words.

No comments:

Post a Comment