Listen: The Drones – Shark Fin Blues

19 March 2021 | Clipper Media

Standing on the deck watching my shadow stretch
The sun pours my shadow upon the deck
The waters licking round my ankles now
There ain’t no sunshine way way down

I see the sharks out in the water like slicks of ink
Well, there’s one there bigger than a submarine
As he circles I look in his eye
I see Jonah in his belly by the campfire light

See the albatross up in the windy lofts
He gets to beating his wings while he sleeps it off
I hear the jettisoned cries from his dreams unkind
Gets to whippin’ my ears like a riding crop

The captain once as able as a fink dandy
He’s now laid up in the galley like a dried out mink
He’s laying dying of thirst and he says or I think
Well, we’re gonna be alone from here on in

Well you are all my brothers, and you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?
Now your eyes turn inwards, countenance turns blank
And I’m floating away on a barrel of pain
It looks like nothing but the sea and sky remain

I sing na na nana nananana na
Na na nana nananana naA harpoon’s shaft is short and wide
A grappling hook’s is cracked and dry
I said, why don’t you get down in the sea
Turn the water red like you want to be?

Cause if I cry another tear I’ll be turned to dust
No the sharks won’t get me they don’t feel loss
Just keep one eye on the horizon man, you best not blink
They’re coming fin by fin until the whole boat sinksFin by fin
Fin by fin
Fin by fin by fin by fin

Gareth Liddiard

Source: Musixmatch

Shark Fin Blues by the Drones – a brutally honest account of depression

Feeling the loss of his mother’s passing, Gareth Liddiard wrote an ode to depression filled with imagery of hunting sharks and murky seas

The Drones
The Drones perform an acoustic set, with Gareth Liddiard pictured on the right. Photograph: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Denham Sadler@denhamsadler Mon 29 Dec 2014 01.34 GMT

The story behind Shark Fin Blues begins with the Drones frontman Gareth Liddiard bored at home, listening to an old banjo song. Liddiard’s mother had just passed away and he would later tell Mess and Noise that it “wasn’t a very good time” in his life.

The Australian musician began to write his own lyrics over the top of Same Old Man by Karen Dalton – itself a 1979 interpretation of Old Man at the Mill – in an old trick musicians use to write their own songs. After nutting out his own chord progression and bringing it to the rest of his band, the song became its own entity.

It became an epochal Drones song, eventually being voted the greatest Australian song of all time by a Triple J poll of more than 70 Australian songwriters.

Shark Fin Blues delves into the darkest corners of the human psyche, where depression, loss and anger lie. It’s a bitter song that typifies Liddiard’s unique approach to music and songwriting and has become an anthem of sorts for the disenfranchised and melancholic.

Released on the Drones’ 2005 album Wait Long By the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float ByShark Fin Blues shows the band at their blistering best. As acoustic versions demonstrate, its strength lies in its emotional lyrics.Advertisement

The song begins with hazy, distorted guitars floating over restrained drumming. The protagonist is aboard a sinking ship, watching grimly as he descends into the dim depths of depression.

“There ain’t no sunshine way way down” he sings, while the water is riddled with sharks lurking beneath “like slicks of ink”. These sharks act as powerful symbols for impending doom, for loss and self-doubt.

The song builds, gradually, to the most important stanza, expanding and filling with screeching guitars and a contagious chorus of “na na na’s”.

Well you are all my brothers and you have been kind
But what were you expecting to find?
Now your eyes turn inwards, countenance turns blank
And I’m floating away on a barrel of pain
It looks like nothing but the sea and sky remain

Liddiard’s brutal vocals of an out-of-control boat rapidly sinking into shark-infested waters has an ominous feel brought home by the rasping line “We’re gonna be alone from hereon in”. The repetition at the end of “fin by fin by fin by fin” becomes anthemic, backed by a pounding rhythm.

The song shares with its Dalton predecessor the line “I’m floating away on a barrel of pain” which Liddiard said inspired the boat and sea allegory. There is more that Shark Fin Blues shares with Same Old Man – namely jarring instrumentation and unique vocals.

Part of the song’s power is that Liddiard refuses to provide the listener a throwaway silver lining; there’s no uplifting coda claiming everything will be alright. Instead it is a raw and brutally honest account of depressionas Liddiard grits his teeth and sinks into its depths. A song that unflinchingly bares its writer’s despair, detailed in an intimate, introspective way.


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