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When “Hell” Is Very Real

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Brian wrote very interesting and powerful testimony into the mindset of the Christian fundamentalism in which he was raised, or at least schooled. He also extrapolates that experience onto President Bush, which I would caution against as an exercise in projection.

The fire and brimstone imagery of Christian fundamentalism is very powerful and disconcerting – most modern Christians are uncomfortable with the details of the horrors that await the sinner in the afterlife – isn’t it all metaphorical? – so very different from the very particular concerns with those conditions as expressed in the Middle Ages by the likes of Dante and Bosch.

But we don’t have to retreat several hundred years for very a “granular” presentation of the unforgiven hereafter: an almost ghoulish specificity lends the Squirrel Nut Zippers’ surprise hit “Hell” its power. My son has the MP3 and we listened to it last night while we were working out.

“Hell” is Zipper singer/guitarist Tom Maxwell’s fiendishly expressive reworking of a calypso song from the ’40s (from the classic ’97 CD Hot), which somehow ended up as cutting-edge modern rock. Maxwell’s maniacallly emphatic cautions against the hubris of materialism achieve a truly frightening Bosch-like physicality:

“This is a place where eternally
Fire is applied to the body
Teeth are extruded and bones are ground
Then baked into cakes which are passed around.

Beauty, talent, fame, money, refinement
Top skill and brain
But all the things you try to hide
Will be revealed on the other side.”

Besides conjuring very vivid, grim images, this speaks directly to the jaded hipsters who feel above it all: “your facade will be stripped away, your masks will hide nothing.” Scary stuff – great horn line too.

I wonder how our president feels about this tune.

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About Eric Olsen

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