The Cincinnati indie rock band, Walk the Moon, released their debut album, “i want! i want!”, in November of 2010. An engraving William Blake included in his 18-piece compilation called For the Children: The Gates of Paradise inspired the title of the album. For the Children: The Gates of Paradise is a series of tiny engravings that chronicle the life of man—from birth to death—including events such as interactions with the fire and earth and the natural human feelings of fear and desire. The album’s namesake, “I Want! I Want!” is a 6cm by 5cm engraving in which a figure wearing a wide hat stands at the foot of a slender ladder that is propped against a crescent moon. The man wearing the hat is not looking up at, the moon smiling its Cheshire cat smile, but at the starry background and/or a couple who stands behind him, embracing one another, seemingly oblivious to his astounding yet dangerously disastrous ambition.
On the “i want! i want!” album there is a song entitled “Want! I Want!” and a song entitled “William Blake”. The two songs share the same lyrics, which describes the adolescent desires of a 17-year-old boy and alludes to sexual encounters and the shedding of innocence, however “William Blake” is more upbeat with a faster tempo and a strange, chipmunk distortion. While the distortion of the instruments and vocals adds emphasis to the lines outlining how strange “feigning innocence” is or the sounds of his love are, one could argue there isn’t a point to the distortion at all. I would assume the band was trying to fill space on their album, and wanted to try out song editing, granted that this was their first album and it was self-produced. However, the story woven in the lyrics of “William Blake” add commentary to the “I Want! I Want!” engraving in the form of Walk the Moon’s interpretation of the image.
The song is about love and the desire of every aspect of love, regardless of how “strange” or risky. It was the close scrutinizing of the song lyrics that brought out an essential detail of the engraving that is easily missed amongst the backdrop of mystical space and the absurd, impossible idea of climbing a flimsy ladder to the moon. The man at the base of the ladder is looking at what he desires, or wants, the most, and it’s not the moon. His head is turned, and you can’t see his face, but it is clear to see that he is either looking at the starry sky or toward the embracing couple standing behind him. At the observation of this essential component of the piece, one can see now that Blake was juxtaposing the desire of romantic relationships (and often times the feeling of how unattainable that is and how lonely someone can be when single) to the impossible idea of climbing to the moon—which is obviously a disaster waiting to happen, but a symbol of dreaming big and wanting all of what the vast universe can offer. In the Walk the Moon song, William Blake is not only a symbol of ambition and the zest of human desires, but an inspiration and also a model of how to present common, everyday experiences and feelings through a creative medium.
Somewhat incorrect lyrics can be found on the “William Blake” youtube video linked above.