"Big Canoe" presents a very Romantic view of the history of the Maori people: of their initial discovery of New Zealand, "The Land of the Thin White Cloud", their subsequent settlement and it touches briefly on the arrival of western colonists. Jeremy Brock gets a fair share of well-deserved stick on this thread, but he and Tim (who I assume wrote at least some of the lyric) do a pretty good job on this one. This song perhaps stands in contrast to the earlier "Six Months in a Leaky Boat"; the last verse also revisits the theme of colonization of Tim's earlier "Remember When". I don't see this as quite as sad as the more generalized "Remember When", but rather just an idea that dovetails with most of the lyrical themes of the album. The song's images are rather quaint and in a way old-fashioned that is probably more romantic for having been co-written by an Englishman and a homesick expat, both of whom see the exoticism in the country perhaps more than Tim had when he left the country in the seventies. Hurled me a rope around the sun Pulled her hot through the distant day Cast the nets out into the blue Caught me the islands fresh with spray Then I came to the virgin rocks and sandbars Shored the boats from the dancing waters There in the shadow of the Tokelau hills Burned me the fish for the moon gods daughter Big canoe, oh, cut me through, oh Thin white cloud of the Archipelago Eye of the hunter on the shadow trail Caught me the eel in the mountain stream Marked the spot where the Moa fell Sweat on the hands of my giant dreams Then we dragged the hardwood down to the shore Feet for the huts in the river's mouth Ploughed for the spice and the sweet potato Build me the tribes of the distant south We are the myths in the children's eyes We are their hope when the future lies The white ships came from tall lands far Full of the sword and the crucifixion I traded my heart for a tank of gas On a road of tarmac with new intentions Stared me up at the moon gods daughter Laughed she did at the fat man's laws Felt me the earth through three dollar shoes Heard the roar of a thousand oars I quite like the percussion on this track: a sample of acoustic percussive instruments blends with a big gated drum sound in such a way that the song seems both rooted in tradition and yet coldly modern and clinical; which actually suits the lyric of the third verse in which the "modernized" man reflects on what has been lost. The idyllic natural culture of all humans paved over with tarmac: and the end results are the louts like Timmy from the tribes of the simple streets, searching the streets for their soul, attempting to "turn water into wine" through criminality or sex. I also like the way the synth and the guitar blend sort of crash with every chord change, though the 80s texture of the sound there perhaps calls attention to itself a little too much at first. The melody is grandly cinematic, much like "No Thunder No Fire No Rain", another "story song"; and the music, along with the chant at the beginning manages to further evoke the Romantic notion of what are, for us Northern Hemisphere types, exotic faraway islands in the South Seas. There's a hymn-like feel to the song and I get a chill when Tim and the ladies sing "Aoteoroa! O, Aoteoroa!" Reading a bit on frenz.com makes me realize that this song is, as @HitAndRun might say, "a marmite song". Opinions seem divided among those who think it's great and those who think it's nothing special. Count me among the former. For me it fires my imagination and I like every bit of it, including the ending percussive coda (though I wish it'd fade out, personally.) which somehow evokes the salt spray of the canoe coursing through the water from me. This is the third of my three "5s" on this album.