Song You Need: Richard Dawson’s lush apocalypse
“Thicker Than Water” pairs a stately, baroque instrumental with a grim doomsday vision.
November 22, 2022
Richard Dawson’s mind takes him to strange and often dark places, but his baroque brand of British folk is often at odds with his moribund themes. Such is the case in “Thicker Than Water,” the second song from his new album, The Ruby Cord. The project is set in a post-apocalyptic society and burdened by the weight of mass extinction, but Dawson often finds himself marveling over verdant instrumentation in appreciation of an idyllic, post-human planet.
“Thicker Than Water,” the record’s second track, lives in the shadow of its 41-minute opener, “The Hermit,” but where that track is a swamp of fragmented impressions suspended in time, its successor is more focused on the immediate aftermath of doomsday. As Dawson’s eerie falsetto floats on a bed of acoustic guitars, brushed drums, and buoyant bass, his protagonist wanders through a newly uninhabited landscape. “Over fields asway with phantoms of wheat / It’s been days now and I haven’t seen a single living creature / Beside a pair of sparring magpies,” he sings. “Going under ochre arches / Once the rumbling arteries of a great city / To-and-fro-ing people in their droves / Above bright streets now, desolate capillaries of stone.”
Later, our narrator finds the bodies of his parents — to whom he never said goodbye in his “flight from the mines” — stored in a building along with their dogs and his own, hooked up to some Matrixian apparatus. “With my bare fists, I smash the screens / Pull their drips out, and fling away their goggles,” he sings, the desperation of the acts he’s describing never crossing the border from his lyrics into his vocal performance. “I am in bits / Half-expecting them to wake / But, nothing changes / I’ll just have to find another way to reach them.”