This song can be interpreted different ways. It bears the same title as Paul Adkin’s novel, but it is not simply a song about the novel, and, on a narrative level, the song doesn’t seem to bear any relationship to the plot of the book; to find the connection we need to examine the text from a psychological, symbolic and literary point of view.
Both the novel and the song are seeded from the same source: Homer’s Odyssey. The song has a clear connection: the traveller needs to be tied to the mast so he can hear the Sirens’ song, and this is obviously Ulysses. In the novel, however, the references to the Odyssey are handled far more subtly.
The novel tackles the Odyssey via Joyce’s Ulysses, so that it becomes the return within the return. In an allegoric way, James Joyce is carried to Homer’s Greece in order to find his true spiritual home. Through the narrative of When Sirens Call, this search for the spiritual essence takes the hero back to the seas that Ulysses himself had sailed through, to face the “old” dangers of getting lost; to experience the necessary journey, fraught with perils, that colours the individual’s personality and gives sustenance to one’s ego.
Both in the song and the book, the Sirens are at the same time an alarming and a seductive force. To grow we must face the danger that seduction always contains. Of course, we need to take some safeguards. The hero must be well trained and armed. But not no matter how well trained the individual is, unless he or she is a real hero, then she will almost always fall into the trap of illusion.
In the song, this is clear: the spiritual home we search for is likely to be an illusion itself, and the result of the search for it is more likely to have tragic consequences than liberating ones.
This symbolic narrative can also be interpreted on a political level: the one at the wheel of the ship becomes a political leader, ordering the navigation towards his or her own desires; towards the eros-Sirens that sing him, and his ship, to his own annihilation. In the Odyssey, the captain survives whilst the crew perish. On the symbolic level, therefore, there are also illusions to Melville’s Moby Dick and Ahab’s obsession, or the ridiculous dangers that Sancho Panza had to endure, following in the footsteps of the delusional Don Quixote.
So, When Sirens Call is a very literary song, on P.D. Adkin’s Talking to the Train album.
The novel, by Paul David Adkin, can be purchased in Paperback from the publisher Threekookaburras: https://threekookaburras.com/collections/books/products/when-sirens-call and the electronic version of the book may be found at Booktopia: http://www.booktopia.com.au/ebooks/when-sirens-call-paul-david-adkin/prod9780992539412.html