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Wax Simulacra

Wax Simulacra


by The Mars Volta


It's easy to be discouraged when trying to think about a song whose lyrics are both obscure and sung very fast. This is definitely one of those songs. It's easy to lose Cedric in the frantic pace of the song, but the way he handles the lyrics reflects the content of the song in a real way – lyrical speed and obscurity are linked in this song.

With lyrics like, "contaminated cravings if you choose / to play something / that aches for a spill" you'll have a terrible time trying to pick out a "meaning" – especially if you don't immerse yourself in the mythology that infuses the entire album. But no one ever said that lyrics have to mean anything; they can be impressionistic, creating interesting movements through the way that they are sung and rhymed.

So let's investigate.

The first four lines have a distinct rhythm. "Came back to doubt yourself / but broke in two /they find it punctual / with idle tooth" has a very consistent rhythm to it. We can even call it a meter, because it is so steady. The pattern is iambic, alternating between weak and strong syllables – "came back to doubt yourself but broke in two they find it punctual with idle tooth" – giving the lyrics this galloping sense, almost as if Cedric is trying to trip over his words or spit them out as fast as possible. The vocals for the next phrase – "i'll find something to shake by the roots" – even jump the gun a little, overlapping the previous line. This pattern repeats in all the verse segments, the first four lines spit out at top speed with the last line buttoning off the phrases. These last lines – "i'll find something to shake by the roots," "i need something made of freewill," "to play something that aches for a spill," and "for that something that shakes by the roots" – are also the only lines that have perfect rhymes at the end.

Does this serve a lyrical purpose? It certainly could, but notice how the songwriting goes so perfectly with the music. These lines emphasized by their rhyme and slower cadence end sections in the music as well, giving the chord progression room to come full circle and loop back again. Unlike poetry, lyrics serve the additional function of complementing music, which is important to remember; even if it is difficult to pull meaning out of a song like this, the lyrics can still be doing important work.

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