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“My hair points to the sky, the place I’d rather be!”

It’s history that cannot be
felt by tiny souls.
Inside this chest beats a plastic heart,
and pleasure is its goal.
— “It’s Sick”
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Vox Humana (The Alarma Chronicles Volume III) is Daniel Amos’s sixth studio album, released in 1984. It took the New Wave Music of their previous two albums in a much more synthesized direction, with many tracks being outright Synth-Pop. The ravages of The '80s spared no band, and this album’s production bears witness to that.

Appropriately enough for an LP that wears the decade on its sleeve so blatantly, Vox Humana was a critique of Western society at that time. In a World... where greed and commercialism were celebrated, where new technology was as likely to distract people from each other as to unite them, and where nuclear annihilation could have come without warning at any time—what could one synth-pop band do? For DA, the answer was to pen bouncy, upbeat ditties that highlighted the absurdities of the world around them, and then pair those with somber ballads about reconnecting with God and their fellow humans.

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The story in the liner notes continued where Doppelgänger left off and paralleled the album’s lyrical themes: Terry Scott Taylor’s Author Avatar gets overtaken by a storm-breathing giant, comes to grips with the Awful Truth about society, and shrinks down to the size of an ant.

It was followed in 1986 by the final chapter of The Alarma Chronicles: Fearful Symmetry.

Personnel:

  • Terry Scott Taylor: lead vocals, rhythm guitars, occasional keyboards, synthesizers, backing vocals
  • Ed McTaggart: drums, percussion, synthesizers
  • Rob Watson: keyboards, synthesizers, percussion, backing vocals
  • Tim Chandler: lead guitars, 4 & 12 string bass, synthesizers, backing vocals

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Tracklist:

Side 1:

  1. Travelog (4:25)
  2. (It’s the Eighties, So Where's Our) Rocket Packs (3:35)
  3. Home Permanent (3:00)
  4. It’s Sick (2:18)
  5. William Blake (4:30)
  6. Dance Stop (2:43)

Side 2:

  1. Live and Let Live (3:40)
  2. When Worlds Collide (4:20)
  3. As the World Turns (3:47)
  4. She’s All Heart (3:00)
  5. The Incredible Shrinking Man (2:45)
  6. Sanctuary (5:45)


Provides examples of:

  • '80s Hair: DA’s strangely sculpted hairdos on the cover photo. On the back cover, they lampshade it with a lyric from “Home Permanent”:
    My hair points to the sky, the place I’d rather be!
  • Bad Moon Rising and The Stars Are Going Out: In “Sanctuary”:
    And should the moon burn red, stars leave the sky,
    Remember, remember
    Your sanctuary
  • Broken Pedestal: In “The Incredible Shrinking Man”:
    The clergy dresses you in tights and cape
    And so the pressure’s on to make no mistake
    In truth, there is no way that you won't break
    You’re gonna fall
    You’re much too small
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • “As the World Turns”:
    As the world turns, it slaps me hard
    As the world turns, it tells me I’m weak
    As the world turns, I drop my guard
    As the world turns, I turn the other cheek
    • “The Incredible Shrinking Man” describes the many ways that the world conspires to make the character (addressed only as “you”) feel powerless and insignificant.
  • Bystander Syndrome: In “Live and Let Live”:
    Oh no, I’ve got a broken heart
    (“We’re so sorry but we gotta run”)
    Oh no, I’m falling apart
    While you keep on floating
    Up, and up, and up, and up, and up
  • Continuity Nod: “Travelog”’s bridge includes several vocal samples from TV, including Johnny Jacobs proclaiming, “A new car!”—the same sample that was used throughout “New Car!”, from Doppelgänger.
  • Covers Always Lie: Keyboardist Rob Watson wasn’t available for the cover photoshoot. DA asked Leo Sorentino, tour manager for The Choir, to stand in for Watson—even though they didn’t look much alike at all.
  • Dance Sensation: The liner notes come with instructions for how to dance to “Dance Stop”:
    You may dance any dance that you desire, but in the course of the song when the word STOP! is shouted and the music stops you must FREEZE in whatever position you are in at that moment. In the song you will then hear the crowd voices escalating. Resume dancing again when you hear the word DANCE shouted and the music resumes. Have fun!!!
  • Drunk with Power: “The Incredible Shrinking Man”:
    From wells of power
    You take a drink
    You drown in it
    It’s bigger than you think
  • First World Problems: After two verses describing genuine oppression, the final verse of “It’s Sick” covers the sort of problems that rich Americans face. Then the lyrics dig a little deeper, pointing out that we’re focused on these trivialities because our real problem—the possibility of nuclear holocaust—is just too big to deal with.
    Our trial is which car to buy
    Temptation is that extra dessert
    In the land of orange juice
    You’re better off with the right kind of shirt
    But take away the naïveté
    Expose the sources of our fears
    We’ll run to missiles if we’re pushed that far
    Proceed to blow it all away!
  • Fish out of Water:
    • “As the World Turns” describes being an outsider in the spiritual sense:
    And I never get comfort in the earth or sky
    It’s my belief they’re not my home
    The world spins one way, but I go another
    Against the grain, one often stands alone
    • In the liner notes story, the narrator realizes:
    I concluded, and retain this belief even now, that the only ultimate disaster that can befall a man is to feel at home here on earth.
  • Foreign Language Title: Vox Humana, Latin for “voice of the human”.
  • Giant Foot of Stomping: On the back cover, a massive robot foot descends from above to crush DA underneath.
    ...Technology was a storm which materialized into a great foot threatening to crush me and all of mankind...
  • Gratuitous Panning: The chorus vocals in “Live and Let Live” bounce from one channel to the other.
  • God-Is-Love Songs: “When Worlds Collide” is a love song from God to all of humanity.
    When shadows fall
    When lovers mourn
    And you fight your darkest tendencies
    I promise to hold you close to me when
    Worlds collide
    I'm on your side
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The liner notes mention this happening on a societal scale:
    Yes, we have created the monster. He is the harvest of our sowing.
  • Homage: “William Blake” is an extended tribute to him, with several quotes from his poems.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: “Incredible Shrinking Man” uses this as a metaphor for being a Butt-Monkey in 1980s society. And in the liner notes story, the narrator literally shrinks until a tiny rock becomes an impassible mountain.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: “The Incredible Shrinking Man”:
    A world accountable
    Among the stars a grain of sand
  • I Want My Jet Pack: “(It’s the Eighties, So Where’s Our) Rocket Packs” laments that the techno-utopia never happened—partly because sci-fi technologies never materialized, and partly because people didn’t change that much. The items that sci-fi promised and reality never delivered (at least not by 1984) include:
  • Job-Stealing Robot: In “The Incredible Shrinking Man”:
    Machines remind you
    that you can be replaced
  • Lack of Empathy: “It’s Sick” is about responding to foreign tragedies with complete apathy. The narrator at least has the self-awareness to feel bad that he doesn’t feel bad:
    It's sick! And I got it on my TV
    It's sick! When I don't feel a thing
    It's sick! And I get a little queasy
    When somebody tells me it's only a game, it’s sick!
  • Loss of Identity: In the liner notes story, the narrator concludes that lack of change is what causes you to lose yourself. (See Static Character, below.)
  • Ludd Was Right: Sort of: Technology is an extension of man’s collective will. And since Humans Are Flawed...
    The giant was power and power belongs to darkness. It is a Frankenstein monster dwarfing us all. It is, among other things, a mass of communication media which man has constructed to unceasingly persuade us that pursuits like fame, sensual pleasures and money will make life worth living. The giant was and is the power-mad system which possesses a death wish, devouring human beings while seeking its own extinction, devoting its wealth, knowledge and skills to creating the means to blow itself to oblivion.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Nearly the entire album. The upbeat songs are the ones about selling your soul to the machine, while the somber songs are the ones about meaningful relationships with others. “Sanctuary” is the most lyrically hopeful song on the album—it’s God’s unconditional promise to be anyone’s sanctuary, in good times and bad—but musically, the moodiest and broodiest.
  • The Moral Substitute: Parodied in “Home Permanent”.
    I gave a toy top to my little brother
    It says to “Spin from sin”, and to my mother
    I gave a recipe book, it's like no other
    Now she makes chocolate Bibles—a witness to my unsaved father
  • Mundane Made Awesome: “Travelog” is literally a song about watching TV, but the narrator makes it sound like a grand adventure.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: The fear of a nuclear war with the USSR looms in the background—or the foreground—of several songs.
    • “It’s Sick”:
    We'll run to missiles if we’re pushed that far
    Proceed to blow it all away!
    • “Dance Stop” is about crowds who go on dancing even as the bombs explode.
    Contortionists are caught up in the camera’s eye
    The music explodes and the bodies fly
    They're rating it a ten before they drop and die
    “WELL IT HAD A GOOD BEAT!” was their very last cry
    • “The Incredible Shrinking Man”:
    Look out your window
    Here comes a bomb
    The dogs of war
    Drop it on your lawn
  • Never Trust a Title: The album title means “voice of the human”, but this is probably the least-human-sounding music in DA’s discography. The irony was definitely intentional.
  • Officially Shortened Title: The front cover has “DA” in large letters, with “Daniel Amos” written inside those in much smaller text—apparently to ease fans into accepting the shortened name.
  • Opposites Attract: “She’s All Heart”. The verses describe a couple whose differing viewpoints lead to disagreements and misunderstandings, but the chorus keeps coming back to the fact that “They are one heart.”
    She says I complicate things
    I say she over simplifies everything
    But either way, I still believe we need each other
  • Portal Door: The liner notes story ends with the narrator walking through such a door, to an unknown destination. Just like the Doppelgänger story ended.
  • Reveal Shot: The front cover is a photo of the band. The back cover pulls back just far enough to show the Giant Foot of Stomping that’s about to crush them.
  • So What Do We Do Now?: In “Sanctuary”:
    And should you find you have the things you need
    Remember, remember
    Me
  • Static Character: Touched on in the liner notes story, where the narrator realizes lack of growth leads to Loss of Identity:
    The person who doesn't learn and does not act, I thought, disintegrates within. It is the chaos of growth, of taking new forms, that is the shield against those who spend all their time earning, spending and amusing themselves.
  • Stop and Go: “Dance Stop”.
  • Vindicated by History: invoked “William Blake”:
    You were not mad
    I know time will tell
  • Weather Manipulation: The giant in the liner notes story breathes storm clouds and freezing winds.
  • While Rome Burns: “Dance Stop” is about the masses falling into hedonism in the face of the impending apocalypse, specifically by dancing as the hydrogen bombs launch.
    Well, tell me please how love can be
    With a kick/snare giving you a fantasy
    “AIN’T NO FUTURE FAR AS I CAN SEE!”
    If I could dance, I might agree
  • World-Wrecking Wave: In the liner notes story, the narrator gets overtaken by a black storm-wave-thing.
    There, rolling down upon me, over what appeared to be a snowy plain, I saw a gigantic black wave. It was miles away, but visibly devouring the earth in its approach, its crest lost in murky clouds.


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