"Nemesis" as written by David Allen, Barry William Andrews, Martyn Barker and Carl Marsh....
In a jungle of the senses
Tinkerbell and Jack the ripper
Love has no meaning, not where they come from
But we know pleasure is not that simple
Very little fruit is forbidden
Sometimes we wobble, sometimes we're strong
But you know evil is an exact science
Being carefully correctly wrong

Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals
Everybody happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

We feel like Greeks, we feel like Romans
Centaurs and monkeys just cluster round us
We drink elixirs that we refine
From the juices of the dying
We are no monsters, we're moral people
And yet we have the strength to do this
This is the splendor of our achievement
Call in the air strike with a poison kiss

Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals
Everybody happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals
Everybody happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home

How bad it gets, you can't imagine
The burning wax, the breath of reptiles
God is not mocked, he owns our business
Karma could take us at any moment
Cover him up, I think we're finished
You know it's never been so exotic
But I don't know, my dreams are visions
We could still end up with the great big fishes

Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals
Everybody happy as the dead come home
Big black nemesis, parthenogenesis
No one move a muscle as the dead come home


Lyrics submitted by anemic_knifeprty

"Nemesis" as written by Christopher Amott Angela Gossow

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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Nemesis song meanings
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  • +2
    Song MeaningShriekback's music often refers to scientific theories, especially regarding paleontology (Coelocanth, the Naked Apes album, etc). Nemesis the song was written as a direct response to the Nemesis hypothesis, which was first proposed in 1984 and entered popular culture in early 1985. See tinyurl.com/…

    Nemesis is the name of a hypothetical red or brown dwarf star in a highly stretched, perpendicular orbit around our Sun. Most of the time it is so distant and dim that it has thus far gone undetected. However, every 26 million years it supposedly comes hurtling much closer (well outside the orbits of Pluto & friends, but in terms of stars that's really close). This surge of gravity would knock thousands of dormant comets towards the inner solar system, and some of those comets would smash into the Earth, causing mass extinctions (like the dinosaurs, hence the lyric about "the breath of reptiles").

    The song is saying that our current civilization may feel great and powerful, but if Nemesis returned we would all die anyways.
    Foobaron August 05, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat a great dance song. I really love to dance to this song. To understand how unusual this feeling is....I hate to dance
    Chefdavison August 01, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentinteresting lyrics, very catchy tune. I would have loved dancing to this one back in the day.
    jennifer_mozaon April 25, 2008   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationFrom the beginning, I have seen this song more as a condemnation of the things that civilized society has done in the quest for energy in the form of oil. Oil, in my interpretation, is the "big black nemesis" they refer to in the chorus."Evil is an exact science," "we drink elixirs that we refine from the juices of the dying,"
    jwpackeron September 27, 2009   Link
  • +1
    Song MeaningBarry posted his own explanation in 2012:

    ---

    The seed idea was simply the notion that one could make a deliberate moral choice to do evil rather than good (you may recall the scene where Colonel Kurtz talks about the Viet Cong soldiers hacking off the arms of the Vietnamese children who had been innoculated by the Americans: 'I thought, my God, the genius of that... understand that these men were not monsters... they had wives, families, they fought with their hearts... yet they had the strength... the strength to do that'.) In Conrad's book it's more about embracing the savage immorality of Nature: 'the horror, the horror'.

    It was a thought experiment and one that chimed with a number of other cultural moments: Eve eating the apple of course ('very little fruit is forbidden'), the Decadent movement of the late 19th century -- doing the Wrong Thing on purpose, essentially -- and the earlier Decadence of Imperial Rome. And -and! - the mighty Nemesis the Warlock from the 2000AD comic -an upright-standing deerlike alien with a nose like a harpoon.

    Nemesis the Arch Deviant whose weirdness was persecuted by the fascist Torquemada ('be pure, be vigilant, behave!') but whose own morality was highly ambivalent. I decided to conflate the Greek goddess of cosmic retribution with him because, let's face it, while she embodies an important principle, she doesn't have a nose like a harpoon.

    'Priests and cannibals, prehistoric animals' - I was imagining a procession of the primal and the gigantic; innocently terrible. All clumsily, heroically, marching into town along with the damaged and vengeful. To a good shoutalong tune which might, in a paralell, happier universe, be sung at football matches.

    The three verses are divided neatly, satisfyingly into:

    1: The Theory, our hero (me -hah!) is imagined as a mediaeval scholar gone to the bad -- we referenced the Durer woodcut 'Saint Jerome in his Study' as an image of the theological and contemplative life in which our man makes the decision to go for evil (as he demonstrates by spilling ink over the 'good' side of the God versus the Devil parchment and snuffing out the candle). The controls are set.

    2: The Badness in action. We're obviously going for some Greek pagan/Roman decadence filtered through the painters Titian ('Bacchus and Ariadne', particularly) Boronzino and Rubens. I like very much the unplanned moment as the Rubenesque lady delivers the 'poison kiss' to the little boy. There's a lovely (or weird and sick, your choice) sense of dubious initiation which their faces probably accidentally, but beautifully -- register ('naughty aunty, how I would look forward to her visits..').

    3: Consequences. We went for a green, decaying feel through lighting and make up and referenced Rembrandt's Belshazzar's Feast where the Babylonian king gets his commuppence from Yahweh for tooling around with His People (the 'writing on the wall').

    The choruses were mock heroic in the style of dodgy filmmaker Leni Riefensthal (who you may remember from such engaging romps as 'Triumph of the Will' and 'Victory of Faith'). All swirling clouds and tracking. That and a drug fuelled amdram Gilbert and Sullivan production.

    Then, of course, Nemesis arrives at the end to consume me and Carl's depraved little set up in his big krill-sifting choppers.

    Be warned, kids.
    falcotronon September 21, 2016   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy first exposure to Shriekback was this song. I became an instant fan, and purchased every album of theirs I could, although by the time I discoved them in 1989, their stuff was becoming hard to find. Even now, the song sends chills up my spine and all sorts of bizarre images dance through my head.
    Major Valoron April 12, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSurely a - critical - comment on the arrogance and self-righteousness of humanity, written from the perspective of the 'believers'/powers that be.
    Like most of Shriekback's lyrics - both Andrews' and Marsh's - very succinctly put.
    The Distortedon July 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI just read that this is indirectly inspired by the film, "Apocalypse Now": - a b-side version of this song has a sample of Marlon Brando speaking over a part of it.
    "Apocalypse Now" was, in turn, inspired by Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness".
    Only now do I truly see how much of this song's imagery is about cannibalism...
    The Distortedon July 13, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me this song has always been about the seductive evil of power. How the primitive emerges in the pretense of civilization. And how we have become those decadent empires of the past that we so like to despise.

    the most telling part is this paragraph.

    We feel like Greeks, we feel like Romans
    Centaurs and monkeys just cluster round us
    We drink elixirs that we refine
    From the juices of the dying
    We are no monsters, we're moral people
    And yet we have the strength to do this
    This is the splendour of our achievement
    Call in the airstrike with a poison kiss
    gnosison August 31, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAccording to the official sites, and the lyric sheet (cryptic as it is) the correct lyric is in fact "...He owns our business,".
    Major Valoron September 26, 2007   Link

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