Tuesday, May 15, 2007


After starting with Things We Lost in the Fire I begun working my way forwards and backwards through Low's discography; except for Drums and Guns, it's their debut I got to last. And while I enjoy I Could Live in Hope, it's also their weakest; they're clearly still working out what exactly they want to do (something that wouldn't really become clear until Long Division, in retrospect). Listen to "Fear," the brief second track: Mimi is hitting the cymbals at a rate which she wouldn't approach again until maybe Things We Lost in the Fire, John Nicols' bass seems a bit more exploratory than Zak Sally's usually is, and and even Alan Sparhawk's strumming is almost lively (although still quite restrained compared to standard rock music).

What I mean, then, is that I Could Live in Hope often does not live up to the idea of Low - but then, none of their records really does, the way no movie monster hidden in darkness for the first 80% of the film really looks as scary when you see the suit/puppet/CGI. I guess you could cherrypick a series of songs that could present that kind of ideal image of the band, totally monastic and pure, but you'd also be drastically reducing the breadth and reality of Low's music. Here, for example, Kramer puts enough echo over the proceedings, especially Alan's guitar, that "Fear" actually sounds kind of lush (especially by Low's standards, and especially if you've been moving backward through their albums and are expecting something chillier and sparser than Long Division). About all that's really strongly Low-ish about the song is the way Alan and Mimi's voices braid together, and the brevity and suggestiveness of the lyrics:

If you see my daughter
Don't tell her I'm scared
Forty days without water
Feel my hands on her hair

I fear

I fear

That's complete, including repetitions. Admittedly "Fear" is only 2:16, but it still feels like a full-fledged song not a fragment. Placed between the much longer "Words" and "Cut" it's little more than a bridge, but one that sets the tone for the kind of unplaceable dread Low regularly colour their songs with (although this one is more explicit about it than most). And for religious imagery watchers, the most we get here is of course that teasingly significant(?) reference to "Forty days," but did Noah have a daughter? Or go without water?

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