Dissecting CARCASS’s “Heartwork” – Third Incision

This is the third in a series of articles analyzing the lyrics from the 1993 Carcass album “Heartwork”.

“No Love Lost”

Sensual awakening
Numbing feelings dead
Conceptions romanticized
Synthesized broken hearts to bled

Without emotion your heartstrings played
Strummed and severed to the tune of a tragic serenade

[A tragic chorus]
Without emotion, your heartstrings break
Snapped and severed to the tune of a tragic, sad cliche

No love lost
When all is said and done
There’s no love lost

The low cost of loving
Amorous travesty
Human frailties and weakness are easy prey
How your poor heart will bleed

The modern conception of romantic love is nothing short of vulgar.  I do not mean ‘vulgar’ in the sense of it being lewd or lascivious, but rather, remarkably crass and repulsively commercialized.  One of the more humiliating acts that exist in our culture is greeting card selection.  The well-intentioned shopper is immediately met with all forms of syrupy sweet, ersatz garbage that pass for a genuine expression of feeling.  Being told “I love you” Hallmark-style is the equivalent of having some dude in a lime green leisure suit tell you “we should get rid of all the letters in the way so that ‘U’ and ‘I’ can get together”. Love can seem like an ill-concieved, ham-handed con, with all the charm of one of those insidious pop-ups that try to convince the barely-sentient of the rich rewards that will be showered on them if only they surrender their credit card number.  It is not hard to understand the disgust that would motivate Jeff Walker to write the words in “No Love Lost”.

While I am in complete agreement with the notion that love has been trivialized, I can’t climb on-board with the idea that there is no such thing as love.  The following admission is probably going to get my universal skeptic license suspended for the next six months, but in all honesty, love is the one con I simply cannot renounce.  I want to believe that there is a category of human experience that transcends our own personal needs and allows us—even momentarily—to exist for another.  I want to think that there is more to life than survival, and that we have a deeper need for connection to other humans.  There must be more than just dumb, barely-animate material wandering aimlessly from cradle to grave.  I believe that many people share an essential longing to understand each other—to see their neighbors as fellow entities dealing with the same existential dilemmas as themselves, struggling to find some compassion or empathy, and aspiring to give that gift to another, even though nothing tells them they have to.  The best approximation of these feelings and desires is love.

Maybe this understanding reflects the cynicism expressed in “No Love Lost”.  Imagine desperately wanting to feel the connection to others and being given back nothing but Hugh Grant movies and power ballads.  Trying to come to terms with love in our contemporary carnival of cheap thrills and easy answers is a demoralizing task.  If I am ever to really conceptualize what love means, my expression of it will be minimized by the fact that the language I have to communicate it has been co-opted by a bunch of soft-sell dream peddlers who are more concerned about appealing to a demographic representation of males 25-34 than finding deeper human truths.  Why not look at the Love Industry with scorn? After all, it has robbed us of our full means to relate something significant and meaningful to the world. Instead of filling us with a feeling of awe and reverence, the word fills so many seekers of reality with bitterness and irritation.

Maybe the real demonstration of the transcendent power of love is whether it can overcome the cesspool of a market in which it now resides. Occasionally, there are human truths that possess so much power that they can surmount any obstacle set before them. That’s what I’d like to believe, anyway.  For us to believe that love is real, maybe we need to see that it can be debased in every way imaginable and still carry meaning.  Or maybe those who sell it have uncovered the terrible truth—that love is simply a sucker inducement to move merchandise.  Give them the fantasy of love and they’ll gladly exchange it for safety, freedom and power over their own lives.  I desperately hope that this isn’t so.

~Keith Spillett

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