New Andrew Bird video: Atomized

Video: Andrew Bird – “Atomized”

Directed by Matthew Daniel Siskin. Single out now.

In the 1919 in the middle of the first World War and an influenza epidemic, William Butler Yeats wrote a poem:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Doesn’t require much updating to be relevant today, does it?

In 1967 after spending some time with a bunch of filthy hippies in Haight-Ashbury, Joan Didion wrote an essay called “Slouching Toward Jerusalem,” taking its title from the last line in Yeats’ poem. In the preface of a 1968 collection of her work, she explained why the piece was important to her:

It was the first time I had dealt directly and flatly with the evidence of atomization, the proof that things fall apart: I went to San Francisco because I had not been able to work in some months, had been paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act, and that the world as I had understood it no longer existed. If I was to work again at all, it would be necessary for me to come to terms with disorder.

And now here we are in 2022.

They’ll demagnetize your poles
And you know they’re gonna try to delete you
So now you’re atomized, unwhole
You know better start making your apologies
Stop blaming technology.

Andrew Bird says, “Didion was updating W.B. Yeats for the fractious 60s, this song takes it to the pixelated present where it’s not just society that is getting atomized but the self that is being broken apart and scattered.” In Yeats’ and Didion’s defense, I think that was implied all along. But as far as I know, neither Yeats nor Didion could whistle or fiddle nearly as well as Andrew Bird.

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