Video Clip of the Week: Chad VanGaalen “Peace On the Rise”

Not only do I love Chad VanGaalen’s “Peace On the Rise,” but the video has become a borderline obsession in recent weeks. I find myself thinking about the scenes from the video constantly, trying to figure out exactly what is going on.

Check it out below (I have more to say after your viewing as to avoid a spoiler alert):

Pretty trippy, right? But it’s not wacked-out in the same way as J. Mascis’s recent video for “Not Enough” which seemed more about just being zany than actually conveying a message. No, I can’t help but feel these two alien’s odyssey to another planet for magical seeds/eggs has a purpose beyond simply being bizarre. VanGaalen also does all the drawings for the video, so this wasn’t some artists creating an interpretation; this is his message in visuals. If you look at some of his other videos, the storyline is pretty straightforward. In the case of “Peace On the Rise,” not so much.

“Molten Light” for example is just two rapist/murderers getting haunted by their victim. Simple enough:

The video starts with two hippie/tribal/aliens preparing for a journey to another planet in search of what we later find out to be some type of seed/egg that a craw-dad looking bug secretes. This task does not seem to be for their tribe or as part of some job because their send-off consists of just the two of them in a modest little spaceship. As they lift-off, a wide shot of the landscape exposes a bumpy, red surface that almost resembles a brain.

The two arrive at their destination and sit around a fire, a commonplace act for weary travelers throughout time.  But then, as they stare into the blue embers, one of the travelers suddenly slips into what could only be described as a trip. His eyes float out of his head and he soon transforms into a full on hallucination. This moment is punctuated by the lyrics “We can sit around this fire, and let our spirits ride on out.”  We later see them smoking some form of cigarette but I’m not so sure they are druggies. Is this some type of spirit quest?

The travelers go on to seek out the bird that happens to feed on the bug in question.  Upon finding one, they vacuum up the bugs Ghost Busters style. The next image is of the aliens next to a waterfall, with one rubbing a sonar device against the other’s head (this device is connected to their little vacuum box).  In an instant, the one receiving the cat scan transforms into a giant version of the bug they sucked up. Did this guy want to be a bug? Or is his partner tricking him in order to feast on him or the GIANT eggs/seeds he creates? Are the seeds a form of drug and the other alien runs a drug cartel?  Or is the alien like a transsexual, always feeling deep down that he was meant to be a giant bug?  Have they simply gone crazy from the “interstellar space that got broken in” to their psyche? The lyrics speak of regret, so maybe becoming a giant bug is some type of sacrificial suicide?

Then, just as you’re trying to figure out why this guy wanted to be a giant bug, the screen jumps to 40 seconds of the trippiest cartoon imagery ever assembled: a melting tree, pyramids, smoking coffee mugs, faces coming out of faces.  Has he died? Is this heaven? Hell? Or has becoming a giant bug led to the worlds greatest trip?

We’ll never know any of these answers, but I will take comfort that now you, the reader, will be haunted by “the same dream every night” the same way I have been since first viewing this video. Enjoy the torment!

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