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the flat of the blade Options
Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2019 6:03:18 PM

Rank: Newbie

Joined: 12/20/2015
Posts: 24
Neurons: 52,131
Hello everyone,

Do you know the song The Flat of the Blade by Massive Attack? I know it's nothing new but anyway... Here's a link for the lyrics:

Can you please tell me what is meant by "backs to the wheel" in the lyrics? I just can't get my head around it. Also, is "the flat of the blade" literal or does it have any special meaning given the context? This music reminds me of The Trial by Kafka.

Lastly, I noticed something that seems very unusual in the English language (at least to my knowledge). When he says "how does it feel the weight of the steel of the flat of the blade", couldn't he have saved some "ofs" and say something like "how does it feel the steel weight from the blade flat" or similar? Besides musicality, is there any reason to this?
Posted: Thursday, March 14, 2019 7:51:02 PM

Rank: Advanced Member

Joined: 9/12/2011
Posts: 32,329
Neurons: 196,533
Location: Livingston, Scotland, United Kingdom
Hello again vprado!
Firstly - and probably most importantly in this case - song lyrics and poetry are not normally written in "normal English", so some of the rules can be relaxed or ignored.

It's true that, in general spoken English and (to a lesser degree, maybe) in writing, English tends to use the shortest form possible without losing clarity.
However, that is modified by rhythm, rhyme occasionally and alliterative effects. Sometimes "how the sentence sounds" can be as important as brevity. In poetry, rhythm is more important than brevity and simplicity.

The chorus has a very strong rhythm:
How does it feel,
The weight of the steel?
The weight of the steel
of the flat of the blade.
How does it feel
To kneel at the feet?
To kneel at the feet
Of the choices you made

Also, the repetition of "of", the words beginning with "f" in many lines and the repetition of the second/third and seventh/eighth lines give an alliterative effect.

This is not a simple song, but it's not too complex.
My impression is that they're singing about working to create a life (for the family), and that they've not always made the right decisions, they're "not in a good crowd", but they're working at it.

A common phrase for 'working hard at a difficult task' is "shoulders to the wheel" - like when you're pushing a car or something.

Possibly for the sake of rhythm (or possibly because the lyricist liked the phrase) it was changed here to 'backs to the wheel".
Backs to the wheel
There's granite to shove

There's a lot of work to be done.

"The flat of the blade" is a well-known phrase. It is always said in this way (not "the blade's flat side" or anything - always "the flat of the blade").
A sword can be used to chop into someone - cut them and kill them.
However if you hit someone with the flat side of the blade instead of the edge, you just beat them down, subdue them.

The chorus seems to be saying that the effect of past bad choices is like being beaten down with a sword (the 'steel').

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
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