Building a Wall

Writers - Tennant/Lowe
First released - 2009
Original album - Yes
Producer - Brian Higgins, Xenomania
Subsequent albums - (none)
Other releases - (none)

A vaguely political song in which Chris makes a few vocal appearances, including two "call and response" sections:

Neil: "Protection!"
Chris: "Prevention!"
Neil: "Detection!"
Chris: "Detention!"
Neil: "There's nowhere to defect to any more!"

With its lyric "I'm building a wall, a fine wall, not so much to keep you out—more to keep me in," this track expresses the desire to "cocoon"—to escape from the world's travails by removing oneself as much as possible from it all. Paralleling the "not so much … more to" structure, the narrator adds that he wants to leave the world because—

It's all wrong
Not so much what men are doing
Much more what they're not

In other words, the wrongs of the world are as much if not more the result of inaction—sins of omission—than of sins of commission.

Neil has stated that this song indeed arose from his occasional desire to "block out" the rest of the world from his day-to-day existence (who among us hasn't felt that way from time to time?), especially these days in which government surveillance seems more common than ever before. His lyrics seem to express a longing for the simpler, more innocent days of his childhood, when he could look up without ambivalence to heroes like Jesus, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (a popular 1960s TV series), and Julius Caesar. Despite living then "in the shadow of the war," he prefers it because "it was a free country"—thereby suggesting that it's not so free anymore. Despite the much more generally upbeat tone of Yes, the same spectres that haunted the previous studio album Fundamental continue to exert their dark influence.

On the other hand, with Chris on hand to utter a deflating "Who d'you think you are, Captain Britain?" in response to Neil's pontifications, even these dusky tones are ultimately cast in a considerably lighter shade. In case you're not aware, "Captain Britain" is Marvel Comics' U.K. "analog" to Captain America. It's an especially intriguing reference considering that, pre-PSB, Neil worked as the London editor of Marvel Comics from 1975–77, during which he supervised the launch of Captain Britain in the U.K. (although Marvel didn't accept his critique of how the concept and scripts were "too American" to resonate with a British audience). So Chris's seemingly snarky comment doubles as something of an inside joke.

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