Passenger: the other I

LYRICAL LOITERINGS OF A LISTENER Series

Thoughts, ideas and reactions provoked by song lyrics. The series is also featured on Clink Music Magazine.

Chino Moreno’s lyrics are disturbingly surreal and strangely abstract. Each Deftones song is an abyss of dark symbolism and perverse ideology that requires endless scrutiny and considerable contemplation to elicit even an iota of comprehension. Inherent in Moreno’s lyrics is an ambiguity that leaves emotive responses and intellectual interpretations relative to the individual. The lyricist challenges the boundaries of ‘safe’ thought and delves into the subconscious in an uncomfortable manner. Passenger is a song of melancholic lamentation that offers a metaphoric representation of the ‘alter ego’ as a passenger. This passenger can be categorically denied, marginally recognised or pathologically pursued. Perhaps all of the above.

Passenger

Here I lay
Still and breathless
Just like always
Still I want some more
Mirrors sideways
Who cares what’s behind
Just like always
Still your passenger
Chrome buttons, buckles and leather surfaces
These and other lucky witnesses
Now to calm me
This time won’t you please
Drive faster
Roll the windows down
This cool night air is curious
Let the whole world look in
Who cares who sees anything
I’m your passenger
I’m your passenger
Drop these down and
Put them on me
Nice cool seats
There to cushion your knees
Now to calm me
Take me around again
Just don’t pull over
This time would you please drive faster
Roll the windows down
This cool night air is curious
Let the whole world look in
Who cares who sees what tonight
Roll these misty windows down
To catch my breath
And then go and go and go just drive me
Home and back again
Here I lay just like always
Don’t let me go
Take me to the edge

Beneath the subtle beauty of Deftones’ rendition of Passenger lurks a haunting familiarity. The song’s reference to a “passenger”, lying “still and breathless” reminds me of Dexter Morgan, the serial killer we love to love. Jeff Lindsay’s character – mild-mannered blood spatter specialist by day/manic murderer by night – refers to his murderous alter ego as a “Dark Passenger”. And Dexter cannot kill without his passenger on board. The killer’s other half is satiated and silenced only by the spilling of blood but as the words of the song say, “Still I want some more”, more is never enough. So do I think that Chino Moreno contemplated serial killers when he was writing Passenger? Unlikely. But what I do think is that the lyricist has tapped into a greater metaphor – that of the so-called Dark Passenger.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella entitled The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde applies a theme that has been adapted in many ways and on many occasions since the story’s first publication in 1886. The book uses the sci-fi/horror genre as a tool to delve into the ambiguous nature of human beings; within a single person there is both an apparently good and an evil personality, quite distinct from each other. By drinking a potion, the good Dr Henry Jekyll undergoes a physical transformation into the violent and dangerous Mr Hyde – Jekyll’s Dark Passenger. Jekyll and Hyde are a metaphorical representation of the duality of human nature – its equivocal character that comprises both ‘good and evil.’ When that ‘evil’ is ignored and suppressed, it is merely projected onto others, or perhaps internalised and manifested in pathological behaviour.

The English translation of the Latin “alter-Ego” is “the other I” – a second self or second personality; a persona within a person, who is often oblivious to the persona’s actions. The term was coined in the early nineteenth century when Dissociative Identity Disorder was first described by psychologists. But the Dark Passenger doesn’t have to be as literal as Dissociative Identity Disorder. In my mind, Deftones’ “passenger” is a reference to ‘The other I’ – the part of one’s self that remains hidden. Perhaps hidden so well that it manages to avoid recognition. And I am not talking about those dirty little secrets that skulk in that proverbial closet. I am talking about human nature. Nobel Prize winning author William Golding said that “man produces evil as a bee produces honey.” The author, disillusioned by the horrors of World War Two, used the writing of Lord Of The Flies as a vehicle to expose the potential for evil as an inescapable characteristic of the human condition. Human nature is subject to original sin – which is Golding’s version of the Dark Passenger.

The sinister thoughts and desires that remain dormant – the Dark Passenger – and are unique to each individual but the same in terms of their nature, are harnessed by the individual conscience but also the collective conscience of society. Both consciences keep those unnamed, shameful desires in check but what if we are void of conscience? Or what if conscience suffers a momentary lapse? Mental, spiritual and intellectual chaos, according to William Golding. In Lord Of The Flies, the boys on the island rationalise murder for the sake of survival and maintenance of order. Ironic. The destruction of moral integrity (disorder) is used to instil a sense of moral integrity (order).And of course the sense of ‘order’ achieved is a mere farce. When the children are left to their own devices, void of a social conscience, chaos erupts in volcanic magnitude. If the social constructs that manage the behavioural boundaries that keep society in check, and work in conjunction with the collective conscience of its members, are corrupted… well, the world becomes a rather dangerous place in which to exist.

So what choice to we have but to acknowledge the ‘evil within us.’ This is not to say that we enact that ‘evil’, whatever it may be – lust, greed, sloth, gluttony, envy, pride, anger – but this ‘evil’ cannot be ignored. Human beings are far too complex for that. Our ambiguous nature requires admonition and acknowledgment rather than deception and divergence. The condition of being human requires that we take responsibility for our very nature. It is not an option. It is a necessity. A necessary act of conscience that will ensure the survival of both the collective and the individual.

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