Thursday, August 9, 2007


A brief word about the new 'singles' tag on this post and "Over the Ocean," before I begin: I'm going by the listing on Low's own site, which means that not necessarily everything that has a video is a single (i.e. "Canada"). I'm only using it for those things that actually had a single release, and I'm only using the tag for the A-side in question, because to try and start labelling everything else collected on A Lifetime of Temporary Relief a b-sides, EP tracks, compilation tracks, etc would be a huge pain in my ass. So, non-a-sides there are covered by the tag for the box set, and everything else gets 'odds and sods,' at least for now.

Alan noted on the old song page that "Venus" was one of the first "pop-y" songs we ever did. we did hesitate over it, thinking it didn't fit with what we were about, but decided we liked the song too much. it would be just as dishonest to suppress something from the heart, as it would be to force ourselves to do a song we didn't feel strongly about. So in one sense, this is where the thaw began, and in another the decision to go with what was 'from the heart' as opposed to what 'we were about' is an important one that all bands must face and on where all the good bands wind up making the same choice. "Venus" is warm rather than chilly, sympathetic to its subject in a friendlier way than their first three albums had been. Not that I Could Live in Hope, Long Division and The Curtain Hits the Cast are devoid of empathy by any stretch, but there any compassion was implicit behind the control, even on something like "Over the Ocean." "Venus," meanwhile, manages to marry the uplift with the control into something that sounds practically Brill Building compared to much of their earlier material.

All three instruments lock into slow ascending progressions, Mimi's drums especially carrying the impression of an oddly touching volubility despite being very close to her prior work. Alan's guitar lilts along and Zak's bass, as it does deceptively often, winds up carrying the main melodic thrust of the song as Alan and Mimi sing one of their most obviously gorgeous melodies. There's a tiny bit of mellotron as they sing "Have you seen my dreams? / They're the same as yours, it seems" but that only serves to waft "Venus" a little higher.

And while I wouldn't call the song a lightweight, it definitely feels weightless compared to the rigour of a lot of Low's darker material (see for example the similarly 'catchy' "Joan of Arc," or even "Venus"' predecessor "Over the Ocean"). From the moment of the opening guitar fillip and Alan and Mimi softly crooning "Venus / I can hardly see ya" that makes up the chorus (or is the chorus the bit that goes "You're fed up with your friends / You're fed up with the end / You're fed up with the make-up" with such loving, wry fatigue?) the song hoists you aloft, kept up by the occasional snare hit and Zak's unobtrusive rises, basking in the sunshine of the repetition of that "make-up," the band once again making the oddest words tokens of comfort.

And what's the song about? I'm not sure, and Alan doesn't let anything slip, but despite the fact that nothing sonic about "Venus" reminds me of "Below & Above" or "Whore," I get the impression "Venus" may be about a prostitute. Which if so makes it their "Roxanne," only infinitely more benevolent, Christian even, in its focus on the woman's disappointment in her life and their shared humanity ("they're the same as yours, it seems") than any sort of revulsion, judgment, or punishment. Low aren't exactly afraid to hate the sin, but "Venus" is one of the clearer indications that they take seriously their charge to love the sinner.

And, in one of the key components of why I like Low as opposed to a hundred other bands with Christian themes, such love is only made easier and more important by the fact that Low explicitly and repeatedly include themselves in the ranks of sinners, and often Alan seems to reserve the harshest judgment for himself. But not here; "Venus" is sweetness and light personified, and any moral critiques or lessons are implicit rather than hammered into your head. It's a sweet song both lyrically and sonically and they have rarely topped it for pure swooning bliss.


Inverarity said...

I have a hard time taking the references to prostitution in Low songs literally, because there doesn't seem to be the element of dissolution in their music that makes such references believable. The connotation of "selling yourself" is believable, but any element of sex really isn't. You know, I haven't really thought of it, but I think "Dust on the Window" is the first song in their catalog (that I've heard) that introduces an element of real sexual tension. "Carnival Queen" did, but it was a cover.

I do quite like this song, though for some silly reason I always think of the planet. For no reason other than I associate Low with astronomy.

Ian said...

Well, I was going to deal with that when I came to "Whore," but I will say I definitely feel the reference is more literal here (if it's being made at all, that is!) than there.

I don't hear sexual tension in that song, although I do here something - can you elaborate on that a bit?

I always think of the goddess. Which isn't exactly eons away from my other take on it, come to think of it...

Inverarity said...

There's a feeling of the intimacy of desperation in "Dust on the Window." It feels charged to me, and there's the classically suggestive line, "Tell me where can a girl get a meal." It sounds to be like someone deciding whether to stay with her lover.

I agree, and so does Vulcan, heh.

Ian said...

Poor Vulcan. The Gods are always jerks, but he got particularly short shrift, I always thought.