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Phallus Dei (1)
Pulses pounding, lungs collapse in sheets of sewer breath. Firing sweat stains steam saliva, seeds of sudden death. Seeping through the ventilator, up the fire escape. In a line, spirits whisper, "Season's right for rape." (2) (I will think of England, of trees in summertime. Of leafy lanes, of daisy chains, of Grandad's rhubarb wine.) (3) Run Christina, hide Christina, sneak inside this shoe. A pair of rancid rotten hands are wringing just for you. (4) But android armies armed with H-bombs couldn't save you now. Best to just lie back and wait, and contemplate your vow. (5) (I will think of England, preparing for this trial. I'll raise my veil, I'll bite my nails, I'll grimace when he smiles.) Shrivel up, shimmer, sliding, shooting, sinking to the ground. Seedy 3D Polaroids can twist it round and round. It twined, entwined in twilight tango turning in the fire. Pressing, pushing past the limit, expand and then expire. (6) (I will think of England, of trees in summertime. Of leafy lanes, of daisy chains, of Grandad's rhubarb wine.) Peter puked, tore a curtain, dipped his eyes and cried. Pilate pondered on his pipe, politely turned aside. And at the door stood John the Baptist, head beneath one arm. Spitting oaths, splitting fingers, sounding the alarm. (7)
(1) Phallus Dei appears to mean "Penis of God" or, "God's Penis". Phallus can refer to an erect penis, or to an object shaped like a penis. The word comes from the Greek:φαλλός, erect penis. Dei is a noun, (often capitalized); genitive singular of deus meaning of God; God's.
Phallus Dei was the first album by German band Amon Düül II. The album was the result of the Amon Düül commune in Munich splitting. The album is a cornerstone of German psychedelic music because of its layered guitars, abstract percussion, and chant-like vocals. It is heavily cited (alongside Can's Monster Movie) as the original Krautrock album. Most members past and present of the Legendary Pink Dots have a generous appreciation for Amon Duul II, Can, and the Krautrock phenomena, so this could have been the influence for the title. John Weinzierl, of the band Amon Duul II, had this to say about the title:
"I think it's a very creative title. It was a brainstorming idea and made the album sell really well, 'cause it was on the index the minute it was released." (from an interview on Perfect Sound Forever online music magazine)
Also, there is a current group called Phallus Dei. Phallus Dei are a German industrial band tinged with dark Gothic romanticism on the one hand and a trashy fascination with sex and violence on the other. The band released its first homemade cassette in Germany in 1988; over the years, they built up a following in Europe with five albums and a CD-ROM single. In 1997, the group saw their first U.S. domestic release with the best-of compilation Adorations. This group are apparently well known friends of the Legendary Pink Dots and their name also is inspired by the Amon Duul II album.
(2) The first verse conjurs up a scene of drunken rape. Pulses are pounding as the rapist works over their victim. Lungs are finding it difficult to function under the duress of this act. "Sewer breath" evokes the breath of of a street dweller, drunk and rolling on the curb. Seeds of sudden death could refer to contaminated sperm.
(3) The first chorus is from the victim's point of view, apparently named Christina. Not certain if this is the same as Christine from the song "Voices". It is always a bit misguided to assume that the characters in Edward's lyrics are or are not real people. This is part of the personal nature of Edward's work and the answers will rest with him. Certainly, he seems to portray many interesting female characters throughout.
Christina's lines are apparently happening in her head during all of this. "Lie back and think of England", is a popular expression in Britain. It is given as encouragement for either gender to do something unpalatable. It has the same impact as "To grit one's teeth." This was an expression supposedly used in the United Kingdom during the Victorian Era. Traditionally, it was advice given to a woman - usually from a mother to her daughter about to be married - about dealing with sexual intercourse with her husband.
The nature of the music itself changes to a nicer, more pastoral sound as Christina tries to take her mind away. One of the things she thinks of is her Grandfather's Rhubarb Wine.
Rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum) is any of several species of the genus Rheum (family Polygonaceae), especially R. rhaponticum (or R. rhabarbarum), a hardy perennial grown for its large, succulent, edible leafstalks. Rhubarb is best adapted to the cooler parts of the temperate zones. The fleshy, tart, and highly acid leafstalks are used in pies, compotes and preserves, and sometimes as the base of a wine or an aperitif. Rhubarb root has long been considered to have cathartic and purgative properties. In America, a traditional flavor combination is rhubarb and strawberries; in Britain, rhubarb and ginger.
(4) Freud proposed that items of clothing that can be entered by parts of the body are sexual symbols. Fairy stories often use the same language of symbols as found in dreams: When Cinderella put her foot into the shoe, it is a symbol of her desire for sexual relations with the prince. This brings to mind the "Little old lady who lived in a shoe". Perhaps this is Edward suggesting a place that should be sexual bliss or a domestic haven, and yet what is waiting there for Christina is a pair of rancid, rotting hands...
(5) It would seem that Christina feels helpless, for this is not any person raping her - it is her husband - and she is convinced it is best to simply lie back and think about the marriage vow she she made to stay with her husband. She is stuck in this situation of her own accord, though it disgusts her. Nice quick interjection of sci-fi imagery - that a whole army of androids armed with the destructive capabilities of nuclear weapons couldn't help her out of her own mess...
(6) Verse three contains a lot of words that express the sex act, the expansion of the penis and it's release and expiration. Seedy 3D Polaroids could suggest that her husand is taking pictures of all of this, or perhaps refer to the actual memories burned into Christina's brain. Perhaps "entwined in twilight tango turning in the fire" are her innermost imaginings of how she'd like to see her husband's penis...turning on a spit.
(7) The last verse contains the reactions of three biblical figures, as if they are actually there in spirit observing.
The Complementarian (also known as Traditionalist or Hierarchical) view of marriage maintains that male leadership is biblically required in marriage. Complementarians generally believe that the husband and wife are of equal worth before God, since both are created in God's image, but that husbands and wives have different functions and responsibilities in marriage. According to this view, the husband has the God-given responsibility to provide for, protect, and lead his family. Wives are expected to respect their husbands' authority and submit to it. However, some Complementarian authors caution that a wife's submission should never cause her to "follow her husband into sin."
Biblical authority for gender-based conclusions include Peter 3:1-7.
Though this might have been the view of the historical Peter, his spirit in this song - witnessing what is happening - causes him to throw up in revulsion.
Pontius Pilate, who washed his hands of the responsibility of crucifying Christ, "politely" turns away from this scene.
According to the canonical Gospels, John the Baptist's public ministry was brought to a close when he was imprisoned on orders of Herod Antipas. The synoptic Gospels state that Herod Antipas reacted to John's condemnation of his incestuous marriage to Herodias, the former wife of his half-brother Herod II.. He was imprisoned for doing so. His death was brought about by the hatred of Herodias and the weakness of Herod. When Salome, her daughter, had greatly pleased (aroused) the king with her dancing at his birthday feast, he promised she could have from him whatever she liked ‘even if it is half my kingdom’. Instigated by her mother, she demanded the head of John the Baptist on a dish. Herod, without a trial of any kind, dispatched an executioner to John's prison and had his head presented to Salome, who passed it on to her mother.
So here, John the Baptist - complete with his own head under his arm, arrives in spirit on the scene to raise the alarm at the wrongness of it all...