Thursday, May 17, 2007

Blue-Eyed Devil

Sluggin' down fruit juice
Extra tall, extra wide

It's been a long, and in some ways tough, day. I got in earlier, but got distracted by phone calls and the like; I still have the dishes I promised my brother I'd get done before tomorrow so he'd have something to put his sandwich in, and I'm not going to have as much time to read as I'd hoped. I'm already tired, and although I've been drinking plenty of fluids my throat is killing me. I've gone back and forth about what song to use today as my mood has fluctuated, but late at night, wishing I was already sleeping and knowing it's not coming for a while, I also knew I had to pick what is for me one of Low's most comforting songs.

Which is more than a little perverse; It's a cover of a snarky, spiky Soul Coughing song (done because Soul Coughing 'threatened' to cover a Low song and were beaten to the punch) which is about/directed at a guy "born to be a god among salesmen," and that eventually resolves in a bout of scratchy funk. Not exactly Low's mileau. But they do a couple of interesting things with "Blue-Eyed Devil."

The first and most predictable is of course to slow it down and smooth it out. The section of the song they cover is at most three and a half minutes; their version is five. Instead of "Dig digging it, come on" Alan mutters "Come on come on come on" at the end of the second verse (the Beat language works for Soul Coughing but wouldn't for him), and instead of "King of Siam / Get the trouble frying / King of Siam / I'm not the devil" the music shifts in order for a more muted, querulous Alan to repeat "Leave me alone, I'm not the devil, leave me alone" which is both kind of pathetic in affect and serves to make this devil more sympathetic. And instead of that funky coda, Alan and Mimi decide instead to just keep singing out "Blue-eyed devil" in unison as if it's the most satisfying phrase in the world.

And the trick to "Blue-Eyed Devil" is that for the duration it is. The drums are Low-standard glacial, and Alan's guitar more tentative than normal; but Zak's bass flows through the song like a river, and the organ(?) drone over the other instruments gives the whole thing an air of calm. It took me a few listens to notice what the song is about, insofar as it's about anything at all, because for long stretches all that's important is the two of them intoning "Blue-eyed devil, blue-eyed devil." There's a weird kind of compassion in their voices, as if Low still don't exactly approve of the man but also don't dislike him, and kind of pity the way he has to live. That makes the song oddly reassuring; if they can show this much sympathy to a devil, surely they'll sing an even prettier song for the rest of us. As it is, that brief bass/guitar refrain after every rendition of the title is both one of my musical touchstones for gentle comfort and makes me want to put my head down and rest, so I'd better go get to work.

Moving door to door to door
Stoned motel room
Nice cool on the bathroom floor

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