Four Walls (The Ballad of Perry Smith)

The fourth persona is an implied audience. This audience is implied “with a wink” for those who would be able to know. Morris’s essential claim is that, for the fourth persona, “It takes one to know one.” The goal is to essential create an invisible audience. There are textual “winks” that the author can put in their work and only those who are clairvoyant will understand.

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“Four Walls (The Ballad of Perry Smith)” is the most intriguing track on the record. Bastille has been known to reference pop culture and mythology in its music with songs like, “Laura Palmer” in reference to the ’90s television show, “Twin Peaks” or “Icarus,” a song about the famous Greek myth.

In this track, however, they reference real-life murderous history.

Perry Smith was  arrested and charged with murder of a family, Smith and his partner claimed to have only planned to rob the Kansas family. The two were convicted of murder and were sentenced to death.

These four walls to keep you

One floor to sleep upon and only

These four walls to keep you

These four walls contain you

Suppose to save you from yourself and

These four walls in Holcomb

To keep you from the sun

The song “Four Walls” talks about Smith’s imprisonment on death row, referencing Holcomb, Kansas, where the murders took place, and mentioning the hanging. At the end of the song there is a recorded voice saying, “This is a call from Kansas State Penitentiary.” The music then abruptly cuts to a recording of what seems to be a police interview with a man who says, “Being brought up one way and trying to see another way is very difficult.”

And now we’re faced with two wrongs

Now we’re faced with two wrongs

I don’t know, oh, I don’t know

Now we’re faced with two wrongs

Now we’re faced with two wrongs

I don’t know, oh, I don’t know

Complimentary to Perry Smith’s case, the song muses on capital punishment, where a prisoner is executed in punishment for their crimes. The United Nations opposes capital punishment and in Bastille’s home country, the United Kingdom, the practice was abolished. In contrast, the United States is the only Western country that still uses capital punishment.

When questioned by a fan prior to the album release, Dan suggested reading the non-fiction novel, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote.

These four walls will keep you

Until you face the rope

You’ve only these four walls before they, in cold blood, hang you up

Dan Smith was taken aback by the book when he read it and “Four Walls” came from it. He told Radio.com:

“I think that’s the thing that’s so interesting with In Cold Blood, it’s so beautifully written, and it’s such an engagingly constructed kind of narrative, but then you constantly remember that this actually happened. There’s something about watching fiction or reading fiction and knowing that it’s fiction where it’s maybe not as disturbing as it should be. But then knowing these things [in In Cold Blood] are real, there’s something so eerie and creepy about that. And I remember constantly having that realization with that book when I was reading it.”

 

References:

https://www.cliffsnotes.com/literature/i/in-cold-blood/book-summary

Bastille’s ‘Wild’ Influences: From Shakespeare to B.B. King to Truman Capote

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6 thoughts on “Four Walls (The Ballad of Perry Smith)

  1. Yikes. What a story!
    A very minor writing note: complimentary (with an i) is something nice, a compliment that I give to you (a mnemonic to help remember!). Complementary (with an e), means that they mesh (another mnemonic) or well together.

    Liked by 1 person

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