A George Romero zombie is not the zombie Dolores O’Riordan had in mind when she wrote her song for The Cranberries. There’s a terrible desolation at its heart. A vacant stare and dull eyes. No outstretched arms, no slow relentless walk. Her zombie is a different creature. It’s trapped, benumbed by violence:
Imagine 14 humans, each in its ‘natural habitat’ (taxi, bath-tub, kitchen), sounding (and looking) like Northumbrian birds. The sound is all human, the speed is all bird:
People throw themselves into Dem Bones with such enthusiasm because it feels like pure rebellion. We all carry a schoolteacher voice in our heads. Each time we sing dem, the teacher voice squeals those. But the music takes us by the hand and leads us out of earshot. You can sing dem bones, you can sing them bones, but the music just won’t allow you to sing those bones. The music’s right, the teacher’s wrong. The world turned upside down.
As David Attenborough puts it: a sight to cheer us all in the darkest time of year: