Evidence that death haunts "the Fundamental era"

There's no shortage of references to death throughout the PSB corpus. For instance, as is often pointed out here and elsewhere, the spectre of AIDS has cast its melancholy pall across their catalog. Nevertheless, the album Fundamental and its associated singles and bonus tracks seem especially haunted by death—and this time the primary culprit isn't AIDS but rather those twin murderers terrorism and war. If you doubt this, here perhaps is ample evidence to persuade you. (And many thanks to Jeff Durst for suggesting this list and providing most of the examples.)

1. The cover of Fundamental

Almost all black, with the Boys themselves, barely visible, dressed in black as well. Neil, with his top hat, is wearing clothing reminiscent of a nineteenth-century undertaker. The whole album, of course, reflects moods and concerns arising from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the ensuing "war on terror."

2. The album's dedication

As stated in its liner notes, Fundamental is dedicated to Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, two Iranian youths executed by their government in 2005 allegedly for raping a boy—an allegation that many observers believe was fabricated to justify the judicial murder of gay teenagers.

3. "Psychological"

"…an undertaker in a bowler hat.…down in the cemetery…."

4. "The Sodom and Gomorrah Show"

"Sun, sex, sin, divine intervention, death, and destruction!"

5. "I Made My Excuses and Left"

Not literal death, but metaphorical—a rather funereal recounting of the death of a love affair, the metaphor implied by the lyrics themselves: "All that I know is when you feel inside you're dying, it all begins again, defying your excuses."

6. "Minimal"

This may be a stretch, but the song opens with images of black and white, the two colors that also dominate the video. In western cultures, black is the color traditionally associated with death, whereas, conversely, in many eastern cultures it's white that's considered the "color of death." The video, though filmed in color, is similarly (and clearly by design) almost completely black and white.

7. "Numb"

A song of profound grief inspired by the death of its composer Diane Warren's mother. And couldn't death itself be considered the ultimate "numbness"? Meanwhile, the packaging artwork for the single features a photo of Chris and Neil wearing medieval plague doctor masks.

8. "Luna Park"

A lyric replete with dark, foreboding imagery, including "a storm will come one day to blow us all away."

9. "I'm with Stupid"

While this song is less concerned with death than most on the album, one can't help but consider the international life-and-death implications of Bush-Blair political relationship. Would the Iraq War even have occurred? Probably. But Blair's cooperation no doubt greatly facilitated the Bush agenda. And where there is war, there is death. Also, what about the implications of "a hawk chasing a dove"? Sounds like a fatal attraction to me.

10. "Casanova in Hell"

The focus here is on aging, impending death, and taking charge of one's own post-death legacy—in Casanova's particularly successful case, through his memoirs.

11. "Integral"

Again a stretch perhaps, but could this be considered another metaphorical death—in this case, the death of liberty?

12. "Girls Don't Cry"

This Fundamental-era b-side was inspired by the film Boys Don't Cry, itself inspired by the true story of murdered transsexual Brandon Teena. There's no direct mention of death, although it hovers immediately overhead. After all, "It's the final day."

13. "The Resurrectionist"

Another period b-side, this tale of Victorian graverobbers is embellished with darkly humorous gems like "We don't bring them back to life, but we do bring them back from the dead."

14. "Fugitive"

A Fundamental special-edition bonus track. "There's always a new way to heaven" in a narrative almost certainly told from the point of view of a terrorist, eager to be "released from the world" as he prepares to commit a suicidal act of mass murder.

15. Neil's skull t-shirt

On several public occasions during the Fundamental era Neil publicly sported a black t-shirt with a prominent stylized white skull on the front. He even wears it in the "Integral" video. It may be one of those arty t-shirts depicting the famous Damien Hirst diamond-encrusted skull, though I haven't had a good enough look at it to be sure. Whatever the case, at least it's relatively tasteful as skull t-shirts go; I mean, it doesn't have flames shooting out of the eye-sockets or anything like that.

16. "After the Event"

Although this track wasn't released until 2009 as one of the bonus tracks with the "Did You See Me Coming?" single, Neil and Chris wrote it back in 2005 along with other songs that eventually wound up on Fundamental. Its subject matter, concerning ostentatious collective "pop culture" mourning in the wake of celebrity deaths and other public tragedies, gives further credence to the notion that death was particularly on the Boys' minds during this period.

And perhaps—

17. "We're All Criminals Now"

Another 2009 "Yes era" release, this time as a bonus track with the "Love etc." single, it's not clear at this time whether the Boys actually wrote this song somewhat earlier. Evidence strongly suggests, however, that they probably started working on it before 2009 and only finished it early that year. Part of that evidence includes the fact that the lyrics were inspired by the July 22, 2005 killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian national, by police at a London subway station who feared he might be involved in an act of terrorism. So his death at the very least planted the seed for this song during the Fundamental era, even if it didn't come to fruition until several years later.