Paolo Nutini’s been off the mainstream radar for a few years now. Whatever he’s been doing, he’s been doing it right. I’ve taken recently to listening (and sobbing) to his latest single Iron Sky from his new album ‘Caustic Love’. Beginning with simpering guitar and building up into brilliant blasts of brass accompanied by lamenting lyrics, (which of course, the dashingly disheveled Nutini belts out in that shouty way that only a handful of mainstream artists can get away with), Iron Sky grabs you by the ears and doesn’t let go. For 6 and a half minutes.
The orchestral music behind Nutini’s raw and unkempt vocal stylings makes for a high-impact, goose-bumpy, listener experience. Add to this some climactic excerpts of Charlie Chaplin’s powerful anti-war speech from The Great Dictator (1940) and I think you’ve smashed it Paolo. Listening to Iron Sky for the umpteenth time it’s still hard to accept that this is the same guy who was once buzzing off his new shoes… (although New Shoes is definitely still an absolute tune).
Not only is Iron Sky a cracking track, it is also accompanied by an (almost) 9 minute long, and equally as intense, short film. The film is directed by Daniel Wolfe whose other directing credits include Plan B’s video to Prayin’ (2010) and French electro-pop group The Shoes’ 2012 music video Time to Dance (a horrendously overlooked short starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a hipster-slaying psychopath).
“They say it’s a power, a ‘thing’. How do we know this? How do we know this is not the will of God?”
Depicting a world which is frighteningly similar to our own, Iron Sky appears to express a dystopian eventuality where people are tortured by splitting head pains sent by some higher power.
People look to drugs and religion for salvation and comfort. Numbed by these opiates society manages to survive but not thrive.
Distressing images of people in apparent agony, despair, numbness and solitude as well as beautiful inky shots of colour which look like mini A-bomb explosions, (yes these are the totally technical terms in case you were wondering), accompany Nutini’s foreboding lyrics.
But, although the lyrics and the visuals match wonderfully, according to Wolfe, “I was sent the track with no explanation from Paolo.” Nutini and Wolfe are merely exacting their work on the same wavelength.
Wolfe continues, “as a child I stared at the planet Jupiter and had a vivid hallucinatory experience. A feeling of abject terror. In bondage to an omnipotent machine. When I heard the Chaplin quote I remembered this clearly. So the video became a dystopian vision of the future as imagined by a child in the 80s.”
I’d love to ask Paolo to confirm his vision of the film but he has yet to release any explanation. Another one of those ‘find your own reading’ artists. Damn you loosey-goosey creatives you. (Although as the message behind the song is to rise through the iron sky of your mind, maybe spoon-feeding us his own meaning would be a tad regressive…)
The underlying message of Iron Sky seems to be to resist ‘them’. “They want us functioning in fear. Functioning at a basic level. Like a horse or a pig,” explains a man at the start of the film.
Who are ‘they’?
Who are the machine men with machine minds and machine hearts that Chaplin chimes in with 6 minutes in? The music industry could easily embody this machine so you could argue that Nutini is full of hot air if he is trying to send us a message about non-conformity whilst raking in loads of cash.
But at 6+ minutes for the track alone and 8 minutes 48s for the video, (or two and a half hours in high-speed-internet-Starbucks-Youtube-world terms), I think it’s safe to say that Nutini has prioritised artistic flow over music-industry function here.
It just so happens to be a belter of a track bound for success.
Watch Iron Sky for yourself right now and try to decide what it all means for yourself. Pretentious or not, the film is beautiful and the song is even better.
Header image URL here.
All other images are screenshotted from here.
Daniel Wolfe interview here.