Today, the best Australian band of modern times are going to help you with your ‘Power & Conflict’ poetry. How lovely of them.
- MUSIC FOCUS: Trophy Eyes.
- ACTIVITY FOCUS: Listen to our Trophy Eyes playlist and let the band’s lyrics illuminate your understanding of key moments within AQA’s power and conflict anthology. Then have a go at developing your vocabulary!
We should never misjudge our favourite bands as somehow cut from different cloth to the world’s greatest poets. Trophy Eyes, for example, are just as insightful as Blake, Wordsworth and the rest…
You’ll find the meaning of the words in purple towards the bottom of this article.
“I won’t sleep until Sydney knows my name
I just wanna see, my name light up the streets
Or it was all for nothin’, all, all for nothin'”
Okay, so no one is trying to say that the dreamy John Floreani has anything in common with the tyrannical Ozymandias. However, the Trophy Eyes singer and Percy Bysshe Shelley do both explore the idea that there’s some correlation between our value as human beings and the evidence we can provide regarding our existence! Floreani needs his name up in lights, Ozymandias needs people to admire his statue – the repetition of “nothin'” underlines quite how absolutely the Trophy Eyes frontman believes he needs that kind of validation. Shelley’s imperative: “Look” does a similar job.
‘Something Bigger Than This’
“It ain’t easy to believe
We were born for something bigger than this”
Ah, yes, the, “mind-forged manacles” – we know all about those thanks to William Blake. More than 200 years, later, Trophy Eyes’ plosive alliteration hints at the weight of the barriers still facing us as ordinary human beings if we’re to even contemplate transcending the status quo. Or maybe that alliteration is indicative of the force we’ll need to overcome the limitations forced upon us. Either way, the repetition of “every” has a similar effect in Blake’s poem – the ubiquitous nature of the problems being explored ensures they have a quite stultifying impact on us common folk.
‘A Symphony Of Crickets’
“a symphony of crickets announce the night”
Not that it matters what class you consider yourself to be when night falls. The darkness is coming for us all! William Wordsworth understands how terrifying that idea is. Once he recognises the power of those: “black and huge” peaks, he can’t shake the “darkness”; the terror and anxiety become a permanent fixtures in his mind from that point on. That those tiny crickets can be so in tune with the universe’s great orchestra is a bewildering thought – especially when all we humans can do is race to turn the lights on. God help us if the electricity fails…
“A heavy hand makes the man”
Don’t misconstrue the above line as representative of Trophy Eyes’ own perspective. Think, instead, of it as a comment on the unhealthy male stereotype as inferred by the Duke of Ferrara in Browning’s ‘My Last Duchess’. That repeated “h” sound might be indicative of the heavy breath that comes along with the effort such questionable men put into cementing this idea of themselves as ‘powerful’. The alliterative “m” might convey the feeling of satisfaction such men experience when they’ve taken such measures to establish their authority. Ugh.
“a moth fight the rain”
Alfred Lord Tennyson does a pretty good job of establishing our lack of power as individuals when up against: “Cannon to right… Cannon to left… Cannon in front.” Trophy Eyes’ “moth” is as hopeless and pathetic as the soldiers sent to their deaths. Floreani’s situation as frontman of Australia’s best band clearly isn’t as life-or-death as that of the poor young men being sent to their slaughter in ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, but his metaphor does summarise what it can feel like to live in a world that’s been rigged against the ordinary man or woman.
“Don’t you wish the sun never came up?”
How sad to think of a world where the sun doesn’t represent a fresh start, where it doesn’t symbolise hope, where it doesn’t offer warmth and comfort. For Wilfred Owen, this was the world he and his fellow soldiers were living in. In ‘Exposure’ he writes: “Dawn massing in the east her melancholy army.” Instead of offering relief, the sunlight only makes the things that threaten us more visible. Trophy Eyes prefer it at night-time; then they can pretend their problems don’t exist. What you can’t see can’t hurt you, right?
‘A Cotton Candy Sky’
“I can see
There’s a storm coming in
Watch from the back porch
As you play with the kids
You stop to smile and wave to me
If that ain’t home, I don’t know what is
Trophy Eyes’ ‘A Cotton Candy Sky’ inspires a whole new reading of Seamus Heaney’s ‘Storm On The Island’. Suddenly, the storm isn’t the main focus, it’s the idea of family and community. When that “storm” hits, nature does not – in fact – win. Trophy Eyes’ relationship with their home remains fully intact, just as it does for the people of Heaney’s island. The “storm” might serve as a metaphor for the inevitable challenges we’re going to face, but we WILL overcome!
‘Miming In The Choir’
“We are the common folk…
We can’t dream, we’re all miming in the choir”
Trophy Eyes highlight our insignificance as common folk. The “miming” metaphor hints at our voicelessness – as does Ted Hughes’ “mouth wide/Open silent” line. As “common folk”, we can forget about having dreams. ‘Bayonet Charge’ makes it quite clear that we are running, “in the dark,” with no sense of where we’ll end up.
“Domestic airport on my own, welcome home”
‘Oh! Oh! Oh!’ The assonance in the above line from ‘Daydreamer’ is pretty potent; that repeated ‘oh’ sound clearly acts as vehicle for the feeling of bafflement John Floreani experiences as a result of finding himself so alone. It’s a scenario the soldier in Simon Armitage’s ‘Remains’ can relate to. Arriving home, left to his own devices, unsupported by the army that should be taking care of him, he fights the mental health issues that threaten to completely derail him.
‘You Can Count On Me’
“the pain don’t go away
When the music stops”
When the speaker in Jane Weir’s ‘Poppies’ releases, “a song bird from its cage,” the music stops in much the same way it does for Trophy Eyes in ‘You Can Count On Me’. But, of course, the pain doesn’t go away. The speaker knows that and yet she does it anyway, which only makes the situation more heartbreaking, The courage she shows when her son signs up for the army is immense. If only ‘the music’ could last forever.
“The road ahead looks cold and lonely
Youth left us for dead… I came to shake the world with my words”
Carol Ann Duffy’s war photographer is left feeling pretty bleak by the world he documents. The underwhelming reaction to the pictures he takes is depressing. Just like Trophy Eyes, he wants to wake everyone up, to focus on the injustices of the world. But no one’s paying proper attention. Not really. And so the road up ahead continues to look as uninviting as ever.
‘I Can Feel It Calling’
“Sometimes I forget my life is bigger than this city block
But when I turn on South Warren, I feel the curtains come up”
‘Tissue’ tells us life is about more than the buildings we construct. It’s the things under the surface of what we can see that really count – the people, the experiences, the feelings. Just as Imtiaz Dharker continues the tradition of using words and paper to pass on those really important details, so John Floreani and the other members of Trophy Eyes do the same.
‘Blue Eyed Boy’
“I can’t see blue eyed boy dead”
In her poem, ‘The Émigrée’, Carol Rumens keeps hold of her “sunlight-clear” memories, no matter what the world throws at her. She holds onto her version of life in a “bright, filled paperweight”. Why? Because when something means so much, you need to do whatever you can to hold onto it. Her home country may be “sick with tyrants” but she cannot see it dead – any more than Trophy Eyes can accept that their childhood friend is gone. The places we know and the people we’re close to serve as the foundations on which we build our understanding of everything – to let those places or people go would be to let ourselves fragment. We will not let that happen!
“I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing
I’m still breathing, I’m still breathing”
Okay, so the context of the two pieces might be a bit different, but isn’t there a sense in ‘Chlorine’ and ‘Checking Out Me History’ that both Trophy Eyes and John Agard’s speaker have had to work extra hard to simply survive. The fact that they their sense of self remains intact is impressive. Despite everything, they’re still breathing.
“You’re my figure eight”
“One day the tide will come
And wash away everything that I did”
Let’s finish with TWO Trophy Eyes quotes that link to Beatrice Garland’s ‘Kamikaze’! The idea of that “figure eight” as something beautiful is a lovely one. In ‘Kamikaze’ the fish are forever part of this shimmering, swivelling shoal – the kamikaze pilot admires their connected state. It gives them a strength he might have been subconsciously trying to locate in himself when building: ” cairns of pearl-grey pebbles / to see whose withstood longest / the turbulent inrush of breakers.” Of course, each of those walls is toppled quickly by the tide. It’s a human truth that the sea and nature and time will – of course – “wash away everything” created by man.
Write about a link between a favourite song and a poem, novel or play you’re studying at school. You could write one paragraph (as I’ve done above) – or a whole essay. Aim to use some of the words from the list below.
- correlation: a relationship or connection between two or more things.
- transcending: to go beyond the limits.
- status quo: the existing state of affairs, especially regarding social or political issues.
- indicative: a sign or indication of something.
- ubiquitous: present, appearing, or found everywhere.
- stultifying: to prevent something from developing.
- misconstrue: to interpret (a person’s words or actions) wrongly.
- inferred: to have concluded as a result of the evidence.
- pathetic: arousing pity.
- underwhelming: not impressive.
Please do send your own writing in. We want to publish the most exciting writing and offer advice.
In the mood for another class inspired by the bands performing at Slam Dunk 2023?