Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
I have a station on Pandora based on the band Old Crow Medicine Show. I get bluegrass, old school country (the only country worth listening to), and the occasional song by Iron and Wine or similar slo-core bands. I keep hearing “Love Vigilantes,” which is an Iron and Wine cover of a New Order original. Though the song is quite old, the lyrics are incredibly apropos. There are soldiers flying back to their families from the government’s various wars all of the time right now. The very first time I heard this song I reacted strongly. I thought, ‘either I am starting to dislike Iron and Wine or love them even more.’ The problem was that I just could not make up my mind on what the song was saying. Was this another sappy soldier coming home song or was this a sarcastic anti-war song?
Well, at least the original was intended as an anti-war song. From the U.K. version of GQ, here is Bernard Sumner’s story about writing the song:
GQ: So you don’t set out with a story beforehand, and say, “I’m going to write about this today”?
Sumner: I’ve occasionally done that. I did that with “Love Vigilantes” where I decided to write a redneck song. It was quite tongue-in-cheek. It was about Vietnam. It was about a soldier that came back and his wife was sent a telegram to say that he was dead. You can take the ending one way or another. He’s either dead and he’s come back as a ghost and he sees her or he’s not dead and the telegram was a mistake. But his wife’s got it and killed herself. Which is a very country tragedy.
Based on Sumner’s statement, I think this is a song Laurence Vance could get behind – particularly with this line:
“With our soldiers so brave, your freedom we will save/With our rifles and grenades and some help from God”.