Or, “Why is Florence + the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful the soundtrack to my trash ship?”Spoilers for X-Men First Class (major), X-Men Days of Future Past (moderate), NBC Hannibal (mild), and Battlestar Galactica (mild). Contains gifs; discussions of music and films featuring abusive relationships, alcohol abuse, and moderate violence; links to music videos with disturbing imagery of the same nature. I’m sure that Florence Welch actually wrote her music about her experiences and not about fandom, but seriously, have you seen the X-Men prequels? Or NBC Hannibal? Do you see?
There appears to be no one definition of a trash ship*, so my definition is a ‘ship that you know is objectively bad, either because the characters bring out the worst in each other or because one of the characters is literally a cannibal serial killer (or somesuch). Cherik (Charles Xavier/Erik Lensherr)? Trash ship.Starbuck/Apollo? Trash Battlestar. Hannigram (Hannibal Lecter/Will Graham)? Trash spiral-galaxy.
And yet, they’re strangely compelling: in the case of both Cherik and Hannigram, you have two gifted but flawed (some more than others) people drawn together because of outsider statuses and who bounce between love and hate, collaboration and war, admiration and loathing. That kind of relationship is what How Big depicts: it’s a literary, intellectual break-up album about being in relationship where the narrator and the narrator’s partner both hurt and abuse each other–and sometimes kind of like it. These are songs of revenge, angst, lost chances, doomed love, blinding hatred, and obsession.
People who pre-ordered the How Big album received four albums over the course of a few months prior to the full release: “What Kind of Man,” “Ship to Wreck,” “St. Jude,” and “Delilah.” My reaction was basically as follows, because I tend to text like a character from an article in The Toast and also speak fluent Tumblrese:
“What Kind of Man”: THIS IS THE THEME SONG TO X-MEN APOCALYPSE IT IS KNOWN
“Ship to Wreck”: ARE YOU JOKING, FLORENCE? A SHIP? TO WRECK? A SHIP?!
“St. Jude”: THIS IS A CHERIK ALBUM SHE SHIPS IT TOO HELP ME
“Delilah”: WAIT IS THIS ALSO ABOUT WILL GRAHAM FROM HANNIBAL
How Big could easily be the soundtrack to the X-Men trilogy that started with X-Men First Class (First Class, Days of Future Past, and the upcomingApocalypse). Allow me to illustrate.
I was on a heavy tip
Tryna cross a canyon with a broken limb
You were on the other side
Like always, wondering what to do with life
I already had a sip
So I’d reasoned I was drunk enough to deal with it
You were on the other side
Like always, you could never make your mind
And with one kiss
You inspired a fire of devotion
That lasted 20 years
What kind of man loves like this
See also: gif version
See also also: a list of Magneto things too long to fathom because ERIK NO
“What Kind of Man” accurately describes Erik and Charles’s troubled relationship, which started out as a friendship (and romance, honestly) based on a shared desire to make the world a better place for mutants. Erik, however, “can never make his mind” up about whether he’s with or against Charles and Charles’s methods. “I’d already had a sip / so I reasoned I was drunk enough to deal with it” refers to Charles’s drinking problem and power-suppressing drug problem, partially caused by Erik leaving and taking Raven away at the end ofFirst Class. However, Charles and Erik, Professor X and Magneto, are bound together by cause, and perhaps by fate, with the “devotion… last[ing] 20 years” referring to the two decades from when they first meet in First Class in 1962 to whatever fate befalls them in Apocalypse, set in the 1980s. They can’t fix each other, stand each other, or quit each other. What kind of men love like this?
It’s not just this song. It’s all the songs.
And oh my love remind me, what was it that I said?
I can’t help but pull the earth around me, to make my bed
And oh my love remind me, what was it that I did?
Did I drink too much?
Am I losing touch?
Did I build this ship to wreck?
“Ship to Wreck” draws on the same imagery of drinking too much and addiction as well as maritime imagery, but the (fanon) line about the shark really makes it.
This song describes the first time Charles uses Cerebro and the resulting recruitment road trip to find mutants.
Between a crucifix and the Hollywood sign, we decided to get hurt
Now there’s a few things we have to burn
Set our hearts ablaze, and every city was a gift
And every skyline was like a kiss upon the lips
And I was making you a wish
In every skyline
Seeing all the mutants in the wide world is a thing of beauty. (Also Cerebro is kind of blue.)
How big, how blue, how beautiful
How big, how blue, how beautiful
But when the daddy mutants leave the baby mutants alone, they get attacked. Note the reference to Azazel’s preferred form of attack: teleporting to high places with people and dropping them, Raven’s powers of transformation, and the satellite (of love):
And meanwhile a man was falling from space
And every day I wore your face
Like an atmosphere around me
The satellite beside me
And back to Cerebro–Hank has opened the door to Charles’s ability to locate new mutants:
What are we gonna do?
We’ve opened the door, now it’s all coming through
Tell me you see it too
We opened our eyes and it’s changing the view
Oh, what are we gonna do?
We opened the door now, it’s all coming through
“Third Eye” depicts the water rescue scene in which Charles and Erik first meet, as well as the scene in which Charles helps Erik find the “place between rage and serenity.” With the powers of his “third eye” (telepathy) Charles could see Erik in the water and sees the “hole where [Erik’s] heart is”; he becomes the “originallifeline” who rescues Erik’s and also reconnects him to his happy memories, but Erik pulls away. This is perhaps the saddest Cherik song, as it represents the promise of what could have been.
Hey, look up!
You don’t have to be a ghost,
Here amongst the living.
You are flesh and blood!
And you deserve to be loved and you deserve what you are given.
And oh, how much!
‘Cause there’s a hole where your heart lies
And I can see it with my third eye.
And oh my touch, it magnifies
You pull away, you don’t know how.
While “Third Eye” is an anthem to Charles’s trying to convince Erik he has the potential to be good, “St. Jude” describes the aftermath of Erik’s deflecting the bullet into Charles:
Another conversation with no destination
Another battle never won
And each side is a loser
So who cares who fired the gun?
And I’m learning, so I’m leaving
And even though I’m grieving
I’m trying to find the meaning
Let loss reveal it
Let loss reveal it
St. Jude, the patron saint of the lost causes
St. Jude, we were lost before she started
St. Jude, we lay in bed as she whipped around us
St. Jude, maybe I’ve always been more comfortable in chaos
And my love is no good
Against the fortress that it made of you…
The damage is already done
Come on, is this what you want
Cause you’re driving me awayErik, take off that ridiculous helmet…
Lyrical, beautiful, full of loss and longing, How Big is the perfect soundtrack to the tragic romance of young Prof. X and Magneto. While all the songs work for Cherik, I also interpreted the songs somewhat differently through the lens of Hannigram. More on that soon.
*Remember, dear readers, actually being in a trash ship is endlessly traumatizing, and I don’t recommend it under any circumstances. Your partners and friends should treat you right: be supportive of your bodily and emotional autonomy, do their damn chores, and maybe not murder people. Just stick to the fictional trash ships, recognize they are “problematic faves,” and carry on.