Momus – Rhetoric

Floating, dreaming. The music bounces and flows at the same time, creating a sense of relaxed excitement. Contradictions inherent in falling in love. Anticipation, nervousness, eagerness, fear.

A Momus documentary states that this is a tongue-in-cheek attempt to write a love song. It’s fascinating that the song at the same time subverts the clichéd hyperboles of traditional love songs while still embracing them. There’s a sense of genuine feeling while still admitting that these phrases professing eternal love are glib and disingenuous.

The trick is in the contrast of unrealistic and realistic statements. Most declarations here sound meaningless because they’re never going to be tested, hence it’s just rhetoric. It’s easy to claim love will last until the end of time, until astronauts go walking on the sun. The fact that it’s never going to happen sounds reassuring, but listing impossible things would quickly become boring. It’s not difficult to come up with endless similar phrases, and in the end they amount to nothing, when in reality people broke up for petty reasons.

Yet there is cleverness in the hyperboles. In particular I like “till the melting clocks have chimed a melting hour,” probably referring to Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, and the phrase is just as surreal. What does it actually mean? Does it have to have a meaning? I don’t think so. It’s a love song, what do you expect?

And here come the contrasts: while they’re still declarations of lasting love, saying that “I’ll love you till the razorblades are held against my neck” or “you turn into a person I don’t know” are very well conceivable. These statements draw actual limits on love, something much closer than the end of the world. It makes the other statements look ridiculous, which is why this is tongue-in-cheek, showing the artificiality of love confessions while still saying that love is real. It’s just not usual in pop songs to say that there are limits to love, even if everybody knows it.

I don’t know if it’s intentional, but on the album Timelord this song, with its final line “I love you like the bee that dies, dies astride a queen” is followed by a song called Suicide Pact: “We were lovers – we made a suicide pact,” further bringing in some irony. The gentle followed by macabre. Not an uncommon theme in Momus oeuvre.

And still, the music is pleasant, and the repetitive phrases mean that if one is not attentively listening to everything, it’s easy to just go with the flow, embrace the feeling as a genuine declaration that doesn’t expose anything problematic in these songs. And maybe that’s what falling in love always entails, some forgetfulness of the myriad ways that relationships can go wrong, and how they do go awry around us. Just maybe not this time, not for us. May we find happiness that lasts till the world has stopped and time has lost its power.