Monday, December 21, 2009

The Siren: The Lovely Bones

Like several other films before it, Peter Jackson's new film The Lovely Bones features one of the central mysteries of the Secret Sun-o-verse, Elizabeth Fraser's heart-ripping cover of Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren' (recorded for the This Mortal Coil supergroup project). Jackson is obviously a Cocteau Twins fan- he hired Fraser to sing on the Lord on the Rings soundtracks.

He obviously hears the anguish in the song, seeing the film is a story about a murdered teenaged girl looking back on her life (shades of 'Poptones' by the recently-reformed Public Image Ltd.). Part of that pain comes from Fraser's own history as an abuse survivor, but part of it came from her essential otherness (which lent itself to Cocteau Twins EP title), which I don't know if Jackson is aware of.

I'd dare say Chris Carter understands (or intuits) both, since he namechecked This Mortal Coil in a pivotal episode of the X-Files mytharc (which dealt both with abuse and alien possession in the form of 'walk-ins') . He also had Mark Snow compose a 'Siren' soundalike for 'Scully's Theme,' which Carter had re-recorded so the vocals were Fraseresque glossolalia.

My first post on Elizabeth Fraser was entitled "Irrefutable Proof of Extraterrestrial Life," but I figured back then people wouldn't appreciate the facetious tone of that, so I changed it to Not Quite Human. That's what people would think when they first heard her singing back in the day. Those aftershocks remain- the Guardian recently described her as "The voice from another world."

But that led me to dig further into her story (which a lot of her fans didn't necessarily appreciate), particularly the relationship she had with Tim Buckley's son Jeff. The funny thing is that I sensed there was much, much more to that relationship than anyone had known. It wasn't until much later that Fraser acknowledged the extent of their very secretive union.

By the time I was done with it all, the whole story seemed like mythology of the most archetypal- and tragic- variety. The synchronicities at play were stunning, as were the ever-present water and mermaid symbolism (not the least of which is the fact that Buckley drowned under the shadow of the Memphis pyramid). Which itself ties into all of the Sirius mysteries we've been puzzling over, lending the 'Siren' a resonance I wasn't consciously processing when I was first covering the story.

Indie director Gregg Araki is also obsessed with Liz, and has used Cocteau Twins songs in several of his films. Aliens (imaginary) and abuse (real) both figure in his 2004 film Mysterious Skin, which features Liz's sublime howling on the classic 'Crushed'. Araki even hired Liz's former Twin Robin Guthrie and sometime collabrator Harold Budd to score the film.

But the price of otherness is an inability to adapt to a world that is increasingly cold, cruel and soul-less. Fraser's done precious little since the Twins split in 1997. What little she has done hasn't had that life-changing alien energy of her classic 80s work, not the least of which was 'Song to the Siren'. I think Buckley's death damaged her more than we could ever know.

Given the otherworldly resonance surrounding Elizabeth, it's worth noting that 'Song to the Siren' was first heard on Tim Buckley's 1970 album, Starsailor. There's a lot more to this story- somewhere along the line something slipped in from outside in some way I can't explain or even describe. But that might be happening more than we might suspect.

UPDATE: Another publicity shot from the film. 

UPDATE II: "Like the fish." The Lovely Bones trailer (and soundtrack, apparently) uses another Cocteau Twins song, 'Alice'. Note the 1973 timeline- that was also the year of a major UFO wave in the US, and many of the visuals here are oddly reminiscent of abduction lore. 

Speaking of which, Samantha Mulder was abducted two weeks before this girl's murder in the X-Files mytharc. The 'Salmon' surname is fascinating in light of the Siren/mermaid lore, obviously.

And why was an old Seventeen magazine cover pasted in over a copy of Vogue for the publicity still? Very odd. 

Mysteries within mysteries...

SYNC LOG UPDATE: Justin Timberlake performed Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' for Haiti last night, which was one of Jeff Buckley's signature songs. Cheers to Faoladh. 

SYNC LOG UPDATE II (2240 EST): Just got up from documenting some synchery, walked into living room just as Lovely Bones TV trailer came on.