Released in 1992 and developed at a time when other band members were focusing on their personal lives, INXS’s Welcome to Wherever You Are album was conceived almost exclusively by the band’s core songwriting duo, Michael and Andrew.
As illustrated below (Fig. 1) in the quotes from an album Press Release, the lyrics of the song “Communication” were inspired at least in part by the sensational narratives being offered to us by mainstream media at the time. This song was written during the first Iraq War when the US sent troops to the Middle East to ¨liberate Kuwait.” Throughout this conflict, the US, UK, and other allied governments, corrupted by the war and fossil fuel industries, used mainstream media which was also corrupted by the same entities, to contrive or deflect humanitarian crises in order to a) enrich the war economy and b) engage geopolitical threats in an area that had great oil reserves. Almost prophetically, “Communication” explores the notion of “fake news” which has become an increasingly controversial topic in today’s world. How do we know which story to believe? Michael’s repeated refrain, “blood money,” implicates the elite financiers of both wars and mainstream corporate media outlets, who ultimately produce news reports in order to manufacture consent and sell things.
The music and lyrics incorporate sound bytes from various sources which help contextualize the overall theme. The intro to the song starts with the static and jumbled sounds of a person trying to tune into a radio station and then segues into a pilot trying to transmit messages to air traffic control. Later in the song there is a voice-over which is transcribed below. The content of this voice-over, which was apparently derived from the broadcast Andrew referred to in the Press Release (Fig. 1), is a discussion of Dada Movement born in Zurich, Switzerland in 1916 as a way to reject the imperialism and senseless carnage of World War I, as well as to call out the bourgeois establishment that was out of touch with most of the citizens in the society it represented. Bohemian, artistic, literary, and provocative, members of the Dada Movement were part of a creative counter-culture that promoted critical thought and upended notions of conventional art. According to Zurich Tourism, “The Dadaists were not really welcome in Zurich; the dandies and bohemians were too wild, provocative and unfathomable. And the Dadaists had no intention of moderating this impression. They drew attention to themselves by means of targeted false reports, press hoaxes and untruths. They marched into taverns in Zurich’s Old Town and shouted “Dada!” at the top of their voices – causing many shocked guests to drop their spoons in their soup. Moreover, they played music and gave speeches at a volume that was unheard of in the conservative Zurich of the time. In line with the modern-day PR adage, “bad news is good news,” they got everybody talking about them and used this early form of marketing to further their cause.” By using such devices to get the public’s attention, Dadaists, with their outlandish disruptions, were meant to shake people from their complacency and recognize the absurdity of war, societal constructs and economic strife. Evidently the tie-in of Dadaism in this song was a way of suggesting the absurdity of what Michael and Andrew were witnessing on tv, and a subtle call to action for a new Dada uprising.
This is not the first time that INXS had referenced Dadaism. The brightly colored, geometric aesthetics popularized by Dadaists and their contemporaries can be seen revived throughout album artwork. The whimsical nature of their early music, the unconventional horns and blaring keyboards are also resonant. In the opening track of the band’s hit album, Kick, Michael shouts “Dadada!” between trite phrases like, “love your hair” before launching into repeated refrains of “guns in the sky!” The common theme seems to be a study in contrasts between absurd preoccupations and brutal realities.
“LIGHT BEAMS FROM OUTER SPACE
DRIFTING TO YOUR SATELLITE
YOUR DISH RESPONDS
BLOOD MONEY BLOOD MONEY
IT’S WILD IN HERE
THERE’S A GIRL ON THE FLOOR
SHE’S GONNA BLOW THIS PLACE APART
GONNA TAKE US ALL, ALL AWAY
Down by the riverside
On the right bank of the river
Congregate Zurich’s youthful disenchanted
Resplendent in full regalia
They revel in their role
As self-appointed critics of the establishment
BLOOD MONEY BLOOD MONEY
IT’S WILD OUT HERE
YOU SHOULD SEE THE LIGHT
FROM THE CROWN OF THE KING
THE KING OF THE NIGHT
In an almost uncanny juxtaposition
On the left bank of the Limmat
And just a stone’s throw away
Assemble the bourgeoisie
Laid back living and creativity go hand in hand
The ambiance attracts (transponds?) all for a sweet revolution (through each generation?)
To learn more about the Bohemian influence
SPINNING METAL BLUE SATELLITE
YOUR DISH RESPONDS
BLOOD MONEY BLOOD MONEY
IT’S WILD OUT HERE
GONNA KEEP UP THE LIES
AND OUR VERSION OF LIFE
I WON’T LEAVE THIS DIRTY PLACE
I’LL STAY HERE ‘TIL THE END
THE LIGHTS ARE ON
SO ACTION MAN
SHOW US THE TRUTH
BLOOD MONEY BLOOD MONEY”
The lyrics start out referencing light beaming through space, presumably as media communication which is being transmitted to the public down on earth. It seems the media source is being received and acknowledged widely because ¨your dish responds¨ indicating that this news is reaching its intended target. Also notable is the sexual suggestion in Michael’s delivery of “your dish responds” alluding to an irresistible attraction and our physical responses to sensational stimuli.
The chorus follows this intro immediately, describing what the light beams carry and why. “Communication, disinformation” means that the transmission received was false and misleading. ¨So entertaining¨ points to the idea of sensationalizing as a means of delivering the fake news story by catching and amusing the public’s attention. The last line, ¨blood money¨ indicates that there are lives being lost and money being made due to the fabricated account. The word ¨blood,¨ evokes that the deaths of people were violent, such as in war.
“It’s wild in here, there’s a girl on the floor,” conveys a dramatic and sexually scandalous situation. “She’s gonna blow this place apart, gonna take us all, all away” suddenly makes it sound like she’s is a suicide bomber, the mortal violence being perpetrated by a female makes the report all the more compelling.
The song then leads into a spoken word sample of a reporter describing what sounds like the Dada art (or rather anti-art) movement of the Interwar period: “Down by the riverside, on the right bank of the river, congregate Zurich’s youthful disenchanted. Resplendent in full regalia, they revel in their role as self-appointed critics of the establishment…”
The chorus then repeats with the variation, “It’s wild out here, You should see the light, from the crown on the king, the king of the night,” perhaps an ironic celebration for the victor of the “wild” scene reported on? Or perhaps Michael is referring to his own glorious moments, partying his way through the chaos. It could also be a reference to the enlightening effect of the “resplendent youthful disenchanted” whose intellectual and philosophical aims were to challenge the establishment, similar to those who sought to challenge and question monarch rule during The Enlightenment, (” you should see the light from the crown on the king”). “The king of the night” may also point to the light of the tv, the nightly news conglomerates who transfix us with war narratives and capitalist commercials. “You should see the light from the crown of the king.”
The sampled reporter’s voice goes on, “…in an almost uncanny juxtaposition, on the left bank of the Limmat, and just a stone’s throw away, assemble the bourgeoisie…laid back living and creativity go hand in hand, the ambiance attracts (transponds?) for a sweet revolution (through each generation?) to learn more about the Bohemian influence…”
During the Interwar period, many artists, political critics, and intellectuals took refuge in Zurich,“The City on the Limmat,” due to Switzerland having been neutral in World War I. There was an economic and philosophical contrast between those in the conservative, bourgeois class, and the disillusioned Dadaists, many of whom settled on the other side of the literal and figurative divide of the Limmat River. It has been suggested that Dadaists deliberately gathered here so as to create an obvious distinction between the two lifestyles and value systems.
“Spinning blue metal satellite” suggests something shiny and attractive, and the incredible means that have been taken to transmit information. “Your dish responds” again evokes the irresistible effects, because people become easily pulled in by shocking, violent, or sexually provocative reports, regardless of their accuracy.
“It’s wild out here, situation’s alright” sounds like an exciting broadcast from a field reporter. “Gonna keep up the lies, and our version of life,” is suggestive of the ongoing deception of the media, perpetuated to maintain a lifestyle that suits their interests. The final thought of the song reassures the viewer with an ironic reference to the production of accepted reality, “I won’t leave this dirty place, I’ll stay here ’til the end. The lights are on, so action man, gonna give us the truth!”