Song Analysis

Strong Black Vine

Sunday 14 August 2011, by Cécile Desbrun

“Strong Black Vine” is one of the most political tracks on Abnormally Attracted to Sin with “Police Me” and deals with religious intolerance in our modern world as well as the way politicians and powers-that-be use that tacky issue to serve their own agenda. The Iraq war reference is clear in the title of the song itself as well as when, near the end of the song, Tori sings “Bodies bathe in black gold your pleasure.” The oil reference is also central in the visualette of the song directed by Christian Lamb which features stock shots from the Iraq war.

In the song, the narrator attacks a man representing those politics and adopts his behavior to show him how intolerant it is (“I’m on a raid/tie you down/cause boy I can save you from that evil faith”). Though Tori most often addresses the subject of intolerance and judgement in Christianity because it was what she grew up in, she stressed out that the song was “looking at this whole idea of intolerance within religion, whether it’s courtesy of Christianity or Islam or Judaism. ” “All of them can be evil, right?” she told BBC News in May 2009. “When you’re brought up a certain way and you’re exposed to the church, some people want to be compassionate and be understanding of other peoples’ paths. But then other people believe that if others don’t believe what they believe, why should they exist?”

And, besides going to war against a country under false pretenses, what can you do best to eliminate people with different beliefs but sell them weapons so they destroy each other? Which is what “Arms sold in Balmy cities that may not be with us for long?” more than cetainly refers to.

The very angry and fierce narrator (reminiscent of ADP’s Pip) says to the tied up man in her car that he “rapes earth knowledge.” That man is unrespectful of the Earth since oil fields are ‘raped’ because of men like him who are craving for power and don’t hesitate to manipulate public opinion to be able to follow their agenda. The narrator points out that “still she would save you from that evil faith” as the earth is not a malevolent force but instead a nurturing force that doesn’t make any difference between people and their respective beliefs. But men have the power to steal ‘her’ wealth and have no moral conflict about doing so.

The serpents bit (“swollen stream/every drip serpents bless”) seems to be in reference to an experience Tori had several years ago when she was walking in Hong Kong. “I was walking through the markets, and they were draining the live snakes,” she thus told VenusZine in May 2009. “They were writing and they were draining the blood and the men would drink it to try and feel virile. And I saw the snakes just being tortured, clearly in pain, [with what looked] almost like clothespins on their necks.”

Something that illustrates powerfully the seduction of power, and how such a power over men and over the Earth itself can feel like an aphrodisiac for certain people or forces. Which is the core subject matter of Abnormally Attracted to Sin as a whole, even though on most of the other tracks, Tori addresses that subject from an intimate view point. But the personal is political and vice versa, and this is clearly expressed in the artwork of the album itself, Karen Collins photoshoots being clearly inspired by the Victorian era.

information sources

Music, May 2009.
BBC, May 8, 2009.
VenusZine, May 26, 2009.