Death/Morpheus vs. waking/resurrection. The soul wiped clean of remembrance—
and yet the singer is tormented by intensities of memory.
There is powerful dialectic tension in the song which is, at its core, disturbing.
Elysian Fields: Classical Greek ideas of death-as-sleep, Hades & Sheol:
Take a walk through the land of shadows
Take a walk through the peaceful meadows
Don’t look so disappointed
It isn’t what you hoped for, is it?
The pastoral promises of Psalm 23 are indirectly referenced:
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul:
He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me…
but these peaceful sentiments have vanished and a profound disturbance is sensed within the singer’s soul.
There is a menace here; the peaceful Elysian grave can implode into a vision of hell and its torments. Maybe you have been lied to about the afterlife.
The singer is in an existential crisis of intensified nostalgia, worsened by insomnia, perhaps augmented by psychotropic substances. In any case, this is a powerful song, and one among many that messed with me big-time during my formative days as a student. Now, many years later, I pray for David Byrne’s salvation.
Paul O’Donnell considers Byrne’s faith (or lack thereof) in a post from which I quote:
If Byrne and his bandmates were attracted to Christian music and artwork (as in the cover art by Christian outsider artist Howard Finster for their 1986 album “Little Creatures”), it was part of their passion for Americana. A Gideon’s Bible was as interesting as a little-league ball field or an empty highway.
Read more at beliefnet.com