Thursday, June 14, 2007


I don't own the Transmission EP anymore, and given my deep and abiding love for Low that should probably tell you something. Or maybe not; I mean, I own way too many CDs and I'm basically always looking for excuses to get rid of more. But remembering that "Transmission" itself is not on the A Lifetime of Temporary Relief box set (nor is "Sleep at the Bottom," their collaboration with Piano Magic and Temporary Waves, or the rest of the Transmission EP, or Songs For a Dead Pilot) makes me wonder what's going to happen when I'm done with the main bits of Low's catalog and move on to the detritus (I'd like to do as much of the latter throughout the process as possible, but realistically some of it will get shoved to the back).

But I'm avoiding talking about "Transmission," because it's a little depressing. I love Joy Division, they love Joy Division, it's not a bad version at all... but it just doesn't do much for me. Or rather, given that a Low cover of one of the best of Joy Division's singles makes me in the abstract very very happy, it doesn't do as much as I feel it should for me.

They give it a good try - included a garbled 'transmission' type sound near the beginning (I am informed it's an Eno loop) is either a neat touch or overly precious depending on how I'm feeling, but listening to that opening "Ra-di-o, light transmission..." you can tell Alan is really going for that sepulchral Ian Curtis feel. They go slow enough that they only fit in one verse and lots of chorus, and honestly that's part of the problem.

I've written plenty on Joy Division elsewhere (that's not even the longest bit, and my semi-scholarly article on them isn't up yet), and one of the threads I keep seizing on is the feeling of fierce compulsion to their music and specfically Curtis' vocals. Even on slower tracks Curtis sounds palpably gripped by forces beyond his control (and I don't mean epilepsy), and while Alan and Mimi make an interesting attempt to summon up that kind of feeling ultimately they're just not that successful. On "Transmission" Curtis was at his white-hot most intense, and especially live the song is galvanic. Alan and Mimi fashion their voices into something flat and hard for the "dance, dance, dance to the radio" refrain and it's an interesting choice, but whereas the original was the sound of the obscene twitching of the will, that thing which makes zombies of us all, Low sound kind of zombified. As I said, that makes for an interesting cover and a good song, but I can't help but be disappointed. And I doubt there's any way they could have avoided my disappointment - I think in principle it may be impossible to reconcile what I about the two bands in one song. Both among my favourite music, and both are just too different.


Phil said...

>I own way too many CDs and I'm basically always looking for excuses to get rid of more.

Email me for my snail mail address, plz thx ok.

Ian said...

I've got a box I can't sell at the local used CD places... if you're serious, let me know (I'm not sure what your email is!) and we might be able to figure something out.