The Land of Nod was born out of a very simple concept: retell the parable of Cain and Abel from the point of view of Cain, and with the artistic license to completely macerate the finer details of the story.
We all know that old biblical saw: Cain and Abel are the male offspring of the first people, and spend their time managing their farm and bringing God offerings, as one did. Abel is the good kid, slicing up his fattest sheep as a high-protein offering to the Creator of All Mankind. Cain, the pacifist of the bunch, instead elects to bring God a fruit basket. Unfortunately, we find out that The Lord doesn’t much care for offerings that weren’t slaughtered at some point, and he makes his preference for Abel’s gift apparent. Cain gets jealous and kills his brother. God condemns Cain to wander the Earth with a mark upon him, so that everybody knows exactly what he has done.
Adam and Eve aren’t mentioned through all this; they are presumably just relieved not to be the focal point of attention of a wrathful Creator anymore. With Abel safely buried, Cain makes the best of a bad situation and begins his own little family in a faraway place called the Land of Nod.
In the song, I imagine Cain’s last days on the farm, worried about whether his crime will be discovered, getting his things packed, anxiously expecting a horde of morally upright vigilantes to seek him out and pay him retribution. In the meanwhile, he dreams about what it might be like in the Land of Nod, some seedy place made for misanthropes like him. He imagines it filled with brawling drunkards and sex workers and strip malls, and teeming with other condemned rejects like him who are haunted by their crimes of passion.
Although the album track ended up sounding like an upbeat pop number, The Land of Nod is actually one of the songs I feel the most introspective about, and which evokes in me this mournful feeling whenever I perform it.
You have to ask yourself: how could he have known any better? Cain, there at the beginning of everything, still essentially half-ape, without the benefit of thousands of years of civilization behind him to hone some type of moral intuition – he was doomed to fail. Mom and Dad got to taste the psychedelic fruit and figure some things out, but it wasn’t in the cards for Cain to get his own personal revelation.
Really, the song is about how we all struggle to be moral in a world in which the right choice isn’t always clear. Anyone at all can be subjected to the circumstances that make it almost sure that they will fail. Life ain’t fair. Abel was the first one to figure that out. And Cain was the second.