Chapter 1 - The Deep Freeze
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The central importance of hard-edged metaphors in "Suzanne Vega" is further illustrated in "Straight Lines" with its "cold metal" and "bone." "Straight Lines," like "Cracking," "Small Blue Thing," and "Freeze Tag," to name three songs, also combines the mundane and ordinary actions of the "real world" (a walk in the park, or in this case a haircut), with a sense of menace or entrapment that is entirely implied, entirely the result of our imagination connecting the dots Vega lays out for us.
We, like the narrator of "Straight Lines," extrapolates from the ordinary act of having one's hair cut, metaphors of freedom and emancipation ("she is streamlined" and "she won't need them, any more") while at the same time implying that she is still trapped - she ends the song "behind straight lines." Although she tries to break the cycle ("she wants to cut through the circles/that she has lived in before"), she ends up facing a "but" as in "but there's a sound" that could imply that the attempt to "kill the delusions" has failed, or that now the "sound across the alley" is no longer the haircut, but a different kind of cold metal against bone-but might have happened?
Vega once again brings a wonderful sense of "line" to this song, such as in the playful use of the "straight lines" image to frame the face of the narrator who peers out at us from the song, a face framed by both the straight lines of her hair, as well as the straight lines of the frame that seems to surround the song and the straight lines of the words on the page.
Vega's acoustic guitar, in "Straight Lines," echoes the hard edges of the lyric. Just as in "Cracking," her guitar lays down the main percussion elements, while the bass tends to carry the melodic line. Like a sort of reverie, the song features an interlude that pulls us briefly from the harshness of the verses and emphasizes an almost dream-like soundscape:
Those soft golden lights in the morning
Are now on her wooden floor
The wind has swept them through the apartment
She won't need them
The existential ice age of "Cracking" is further reinforced by the song "Freeze Tag," with its references to "wintertime," "the trembling of freeze tag, in the dark," and the sun that "is fading fast." As with "Cracking" and "Small Blue Thing," we are again shown hard-edged and tactile objects such as "dimming diamonds." Later, in "Undertow," we again see images of hard, cold edges: "the edge of a knife;" "the point of a needle;" "a diamond;" "a bullet in flight." And like "Cracking," "Freeze Tag" teeters on the knife edge between reality and imagination, between the hard "diamonds" and fantasy of the "movie screen" with "Dietrich," "Dean," "Bogart" and "Bacall," as well as the "playing," of "games," and "hide-and-seek." (Curiously, in her book "The Passionate Eye," the lyrics to "Freeze Tag" appear alongside the lyrics to a song, "Playing," that she wrote when 15 years old. )
Frequently throughout the album, Vega contrasts the hard-edge of "reality"
with the flow of her dreamscape. In "Some Journey" the narrator constantly
reminds us of the fantasy with the phrases "If I," "I could,"
and "Would you," and then suddenly she snaps us out of the fantasy
with the words "But as it is." Fantasy and game-playing are a thread
throughout the album. From the "game of chivalry" and "hide-and-seek"
of "Freeze Tag," to the role playing of "Some Journey,"
to the chess games of "Knight Moves."
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