Monday, May 17, 2010

Wolf Parade - Yulia [Song about Space]


 So the new Wolf Parade album EXPO 86 leaked, and I'd been playing it off and on all weekend. I knew I liked the way "Yulia" sounded, but Wolf Parade can be hard to understand. (Case in point: rather than "Yulia" my boyfriend thought that were singing, "Too young! Too young!")

I didn't really hear the words until this morning on my commute, and I'm not so clear on all of them, but the ones I am clear on: wow.

Its a song about a astronaut (cosmonaut? Yulia is an Eastern European/Russian name, as for Julia. The Ukrainian PM is named Yulia) singing back to his love on earth. The song begins with the send off for the flight (apologies if lyrics are wrong, see above explanation of WP being hard to understand....and this isn't a full collection of the lyrics, but just the most pertinent/hearable to me):

"I was up there floating with them
and you know that I was gone
The radio sings a patriot song
as the devil gets you low

We were standing on the platform
The favorite sons in history"

This is a pretty big deal. They're already national heroes, just for advancing the space program. You know, until:

"The flip one switch at mission control
and I'm never coming home

Its unclear to me whether this was intentional on the space program's part (they fuck up and pull the plug to cover it up) or if it was just that nothing else could be done (no way to save them, so might as well cut your losses).

"I'm standing here
Drifting alone
and my heartbeats slow
and I hope they bring my body back

Doubly heartbreaking. I don't know if its just because I love being earthbound, but the idea of drifting in space, dying and all alone in all that space is terrible. And then knowing, as you are dying, that you'll be alone alone, drifting, for the rest of eternity.

The next is directly put to Yulia:

"So when they turn the camaras on you
Baby please don't speak of me
Point up to the dark above you
As they edit me from history

I'm ten million miles from my comfortable home
And space is very cold

So this guy goes from being the favorite son of his country to being written out of history because of the mission's failure. And gets to die alone for his trouble.

The next part just piles on the heartbreak"

"There's nothing out here
Nothing out here
nothing out
nothing out here
nothing out here"

This is the best song featuring space in a while. 

So, is it significant that her name is Yulia instead of Julia? Is this story more believable if its the Russians doing this? And maybe the failed manned missions from the US didn't get completely covered up, but we definitely don't remember them the way we remember Buzz Aldrin (of Dancing with the Stars fame, now!) or Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon. Who remembers the names of the astronauts who died in Apollo 1? Its not a cover up, its just the way recent history remembers.


El-Gee said...

I really really liked your take on this song, which (the "which" here refers to the song) also touches me very particularly, for the same reasons.

I've been listening non stop since i found it yesterday, and had the urge to google it to see what everyone else thought of it. Your post was spot on.

btw I've been writing a few short bursts about being lost in Space myself, check my blog out (telegrams from a drifting spaceship), u might it find it interesting if u, like me, conceptually like the artistic potential that of someone drifting in Space represents.

west of the sun said...

caught this post today. i'm most curious about the title of the song. the content is fairly obvious so far as it being about space...but i wonder if Yulia is referring to Nikita Khrushchev's daughter and grand daughter. he actually raised his grand-daughter after his son perished in a military aircraft exercise...something about that really echoes this song seeing as he was pretty much the first russian leader to promote the space program (or at least promoted it during it's heyday)

Рейчел said...

Yulia is actually simply a very common Slavic name. It was probably chosen as the name for the narrator's beloved because the name is both sonorous and distinctly Russian or Slavic (similar to Svetlana, Marina, Anya, Tanya, etc.).

My first Russian professor was named Yulia (spelled Юлия in Cyrillic).