and I can hear 'em


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kindly Blessed

If what we create when we're not trying too hard is more revealing of our true selves,* then "Kindly Blessed" is definitely the most interesting solo Mimi song. She wrote it in five minutes while washing the dishes, after Secretly Canadian asked the band for an a cappella song for a compilation. Given the way the band's religion and use of religious themes is often used by media interlocutors, the lyrics deserve reproduction in full:

Don't ask me for a favor
Don't ask me for a plea
I'll only do your bidding
If you stop cajoling me

But I'll cry, cry, cry like the best
Cry, cry, cry like the rest
Don't ask me to forgive you
I'm not so kindly blessed

Frustrating as it seems
You're not the first today
Excuse me for my needs
There is no other way

So I'll cry, cry, cry like the best
Cry, cry, cry like the rest
Don't ask me to forgive you
I'm not so kindly blessed
Don't ask me to forgive you
I'm not so kindly blessed


Well there, what does that mean? Other than Mimi Parker is a songwriter, and like any other songwriter maybe she is capable of writing songs that both do and don't reflect her personal beliefs. Or maybe that she's a human being, and even the most devout, good hearted human beings have moments of days where we're just not that kindly blessed. There's a lot to like about the song, from the fact that any time we get a better 'view' of Mimi's gorgeous voice is a treat to the way multiple Mimis kick in on the "cry, cry, cry" parts, to the way "Frustrating as it seems / You're not the first today" makes me think of the telemarketers who call when I'm not working in the afternoon.

Mimi, being quieter than Alan in terms of number of songs written, interviews done and so on and so forth, often comes across as a bit inscrutable, at least as far as I can tell. A song like "Kindly Blessed," both gorgeous and with a bit of dark humour to its delivery, goes a long way to reminding us that incredible voice and daunting silence aside she's just a person like anyone else.

And also, that is one hell of a melody for being written in five minutes. Wow.

*[please temporarily ignore the multitude of problems with this thesis; it's one I'm sure you've heard before and my use of it here for arguments sake doesn't mean I think it has much truth to it]

Monday, July 30, 2007

Please excuse me

The festival was incredible, but some shit is going down today; service returns to normal tomorrow.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BRB

I've got a music festival to go this weekend and a lot of work to do before/after then; see you Monday.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Over the Ocean

"Over the Ocean" was the first song I read about as Low's peak, in a long forgotten article or webpage, some precursor of mine declaiming to anyone who would read that the band had somehow fused pop perfection and their usual crystalline, glacial phrasing into something mindblowing.

In the period before Trust came out (in other words, in the period when Things We Lost in the Fire sent me scrambling back through their discography looking for more), The Curtain Hits the Cast was my favourite Low album, in no small part due to "Do You Know How to Waltz?"'s excessiveness (I was also listening to Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven and Come On Die Young a lot), but partly because of this song. That writer was and is right; despite the more pop moves they've made before and since (including the album-length gestures of relative inclusion that were Secret Name and Things We Lost in the Fire) there is nothing in Low's discography that is quite as comforting as "Over the Ocean."

I've had a raging headache all day for some unexplained reason, and this was the only Low song I wanted to hear. The first time I was on a plane over the, err, ocean I listened to this song seventeen times. I once wrote a rather poor, gushy, article about the song. What I love about the rest of the album is its almost sumptuous darkness, perfectly reflected by the dark curtain in the cover art, and "Over the Ocean" partakes of a bit of that, having been written by Alan on bass while waiting for Zak to join, sick enough that he could only hit a few notes (including that high "Iiiiiiii'm" at the beginning of the chorus). The non-chorus lines are brief but suggestive:

Over the hills, over the dell
Over the fireline
Over the sand, over the plan
Over the empire

And if I belong, then I'll be longer than expected
And if I'm wrong, the mighty and strong will be rejected


This is bookended, of course, by many repetitions of "I'm over the ocean." What does it mean? A few albums back they sang of the sea being a long, long way away from them (and both "Sea" and this song feature Alan and Mimi's not-quite-unison on the repeated lines, although only "Over the Ocean" makes it feel like a chorus), and now they're over it - there's definitely a feel of being above all worries, all stress, all problems. Despite the fact they usually moved at a more deliberate pace than most of their contemporaries this is one of the surprisingly few times they can actually make you feel like everything is moving in slow motion (as compared to, say, "Shame," where a humid, sultry night is evoked but no sort of wading-through-air feeling the way this song does). It's an effect that the gorgeous video presents as well, although the video also brings to mind glenn mcdonald's remarks on how terrifying Low can be live. I'm going to quote his most striking passage, possibly for the second time, just because I love it that much:

The scariest thing about seeing Low play is seeing them play, or, really, seeing them not play. The songs don't sound any different in concert, but where the silence between notes is passive, when you're just listening to it, when the players are standing right in front of you, deliberately not playing, waiting expressionlessly for it to become time for the next note, the suspension assumes an active identity of its own. Standing in the room with Low is a trial, and one in which you can learn some things about your attention span, your preconceptions about performance and public consumption of art, and your physical tolerance for stasis. You can try to simulate this environment, perhaps by standing up and closing your eyes while you listen, and if Low never visits your town I won't begrudge you your closest approach, but you're not testing the same thing. You need people, and the rustle of air conditioners, and somebody behind you coughing, and the creak of leather-jacket sleeves as the guy in front of you reverses his arm positions, and Alan, Mimi and Zak managing to make eye contact with nothing, not even the floor. You need to know that you paid to stand in this room, and that if the show goes on too long you'll miss the last train, and that, unbelievably, the three of them have done this every night for the last three weeks. You need to know that they have performed these songs, and lived through it, even though when you look in their faces you can't always tell how. You need to sense how wrong it would be to scream. Without these things around you, a recording of the sounds made at such an event is no more edifying or sensible than the audio tape of an avalanche, or a poisoning, or a dream in which the world finally stops its odious twirl.

"Over the Ocean" is the song that captures the best, for me, that sense that it would be wrong to intrude, to shout over top of it. I got a call from a friend while writing this entry, and at one point she asked me what was playing in the background. I turned up the volume a bit and held my phone near the speaker for the duration of two or three "I'm over the ocean"s. Now she'd like to borrow a Low CD. This is not coincidence. There's something protean about the song's appeal, at least lyrically, with the ocean standing in for anything you want - even the ocean. If they ever put out a best-of (and oh, how I finally, ruefully understand my father and others when they have claimed that some band or another isn't done justice by one of those!), "Over the Ocean" has to be on it. There are times I find its warm embrace almost trite, having listened to the albums so often that I'm more likely to fixate on a "Mom Says" or a "Pretty People" or a "Home," but when I'm away from the music "Over the Ocean" is the one I remember, more often than not.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Whitetail

I seem doomed to have epically shitty nights, as far as sleep goes, on the occasions where I close one night and open the next morning. Last night this was not down to Frailty-inspired insomnia like last time, but rather one of my girlfriend's cats decided that he should pee on my side of the bed. I'd think he doesn't like me, but he's done it when I'm not sleeping there before (or so I hear).

The segue from "Sunflower" into Whitetail used to be pretty seamless on my old Discman, although some of the programs I've used since have insisted on sticking a one second pause in there. Right now, listening to it looped, there's a surprisingly natural rhythm to the way Mimi's brushed cymbal clatter subsides and arises again when the song starts over. That constant susurrus of cymbal is the most striking thing about "Whitetail," and one that most closely corresponds to the state of my head after not quite getting enough sleep (although a good breakfast helped). The incredibly patient, carefully placed bass notes and Alan's increasingly strident guitar strum help the song get more intense, but really in my memory the thing is just one hissing, darkly foreboding mess of cooed "closer, closer"s. Even though they only occur twice:

Stay out
All night
Waste time
Waste light
Closer, closer
Ever closer

You win
you fail
Exit
Whitetail
Closer, closer
Never closer


So again we have that many words for a five minute song; this only amplifies the hypnotic, brain-numbing effect of all that cymbal. I always thought this song was about staying up too late, not exactly a stunningly original take. But something about "You win / You fail" perfectly captures how it feels to hit 5 am without any real reason for being up, the kind of long, music-and-Freecell fuelled nights I had in second year. That was, naturally enough, when I started listening to Low via this album, and so "Whitetail" is evocative both of the general feeling (of both fatigue via being up too late and the shattered remnant that is your body and mind the next morning) and of a specific time and place for me. There's something almost nightmarish about it, something redolent not just of staying up but of being forced to; it could perfectly soundtrack some sort of hellishly surreal short film about sleep deprivation torture. Don't get me wrong, I like the song, and when I'm fully rested it even feels kind of soothing (especially as just one song on an album, between "Sunflower" and the mighty "Dinosaur Act"), but in this state or for this duration there is something very, very intimidating about "Whitetail" indeed.

Oh, and all Alan had to say about this one was "lyrics were inspired by zak 'comic books' sally. whitetail is a type of deer." I have no idea what "Whitetail" might have to do with comic books, either the superhero type or the type Zak makes.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A minor adjustment

So I got sick and tired of all that black and switched templates. I still don't have enough free time to get into the nitty gritty of making my own so I'm using one called "Tekka" with minor adjustments. One of my favourite parts of it is the way that, at the resolution and screen width I use, the title of the blog stacks neatly. Feedback is always welcomed, of course, but for now I'm pretty happy with it.

Walk Into the Sea

There are two songs on The Great Destroyer that mention the album's title. "Silver Rider" is much more ambiguous, saying "The great destroyer / She passes through you like a knife," which still leaves plenty of room for "Walk Into the Sea"'s more direct formulation to apply: "Yeah, time's the great destroyer / Leaves every child a bastard."

As with most recent Low songs, Alan and Mimi's children (or at least the fact that they are parents) resonates through those lyrics, but what is bizarre and wonderful about "Walk Into the Sea" is that it is a song at peace, and even joyous, while considering the end. That it should lead smoothly not into a quiet retirement (as the album made me fear at the time) but into the harsh glare of mortality found on "Pretty People" is the oddest juxtaposition I can think of in Low's work, and no less so just because the songs are separated by albums and a year.

The song starts with some anticipatory guitar pickup noise and then Mimi launches into one of her best drum parts, reaching towards but deviating from the classic "Be My Baby" one - twothree beat. That beat (hers is more onetwo - three - four) and Alan's muscularly strummed guitar are the foundation of the track, and over it Alan asks "Do I have to stay alive / Just to keep our dresses white?" and sings of the way "You tell me about a Savior / And how the soul lives on forever." The note of almost blithe unconcern I mentioned on "Just Stand Back" is here revealed as nothing less than the product of love; even as he sings "And time's just a hunger / It bleeds us out to nothing,"* the conclusion Alan comes to is "When it finally takes us over / I hope we float away together."

After the second repetition of those lines there's a pause in the drums, a prolonged and lovely "oooooh" from Alan and Mimi and either a xylophone or some bells count down to the brief wordless coda of the song.

I'm not sure what it is about "Walk Into the Sea" that fills me with such a deep sense of contentment, that convinces me that such a sense is shared by the song and by Alan (at least for the duration). The closing diptychs of the last few Low albums have been extremely interesting, and just as "Murderer" and "Violent Past" interact with each other to make the end of Drums and Guns so satisfying "Walk Into the Sea" is almost a comment upon its predecessor, "Death of a Salesman." I'll save getting into that song for its own entry, of course, but the Alan of "Walk Into the Sea" could almost be the beaten-down "prisons and math" man from "Death of a Salesman" had he chosen differently. As with "Pretty People" (although expressed less harshly) this song is about realising that everything is not all right, that viewed a certain way we're all fucked, and that there's little we can do about it. I think it's instructive that the opening lines are "I could walk into the sea / And choke away the memory," and not "I will" etc. Part of this song is very much in line with the existentialist thought that part of our freedom comes from realising that the only thing that keeps us alive is our decision, moment by moment, to keep living. And that therefore even the fact that we're all gonna die can't be that bad - if it was, we wouldn't decide to stick around.

So "Walk Into the Sea" (and do note what part of the song that title emphasizes!) feels like both an acknowledgment that our fates are in our own hands (Alan doesn't mock that saviour he's told about, but he doesn't sound particularly keen on Him either), and a deep certainty that above and beyond any of the things discussed in the song which are depressing on the face of it everything is going to be okay. That last part I think is down to the way they sing "Walk Into the Sea," and part of that is in contrast to "Death of a Salesman" and its immediate predecessor "Pissing." If the album represents the same 'voice' throughout, by the time of this final song that voice is at peace with all its anger and regret, and looks forward to both life and the inevitable "floating away" with aplomb. A trick we could all do well to master.



* (usually when there's a discrepancy between Low's own site and the SongMeanings one (which I use because Low's new site doesn't have all of their lyrics yet) I go by the band; but when Low's site tells me the second line in that couplet is "It leads itself to nothing" and my own careful listening to the track tells me that there is a definite 'b' sound and nothing that sounds like itself, I both go with the other version and also wonder why this would be edited/changed (or unchanged, if the 'bleeds' version is a later gloss) for public consumption.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pretty People

All soldiers, they're all gonna die

"Pretty People" might just be the most disturbing song in Low's oeuvre, certainly the most disturbing one I can think of from their studio albums (and so, as I mentioned in my review, it takes more than a little chutzpah to put it as the opener to probably their most high-profile effort to date). I'm not a particularly dark person, at least I don't think so, and as I've alluded to or mentioned a bit in recent posts on this blog one of the interesting and kind of worrying things about going through Low's work song by song is noticing just how negative the band's work often is, and seemingly more so as the years pass. Has it made me like them any less? No, but maybe that's another thing to worry about... the song is, first of all, sonically unpleasant. I love the sound now, but when it starts up with the thick buzzing cloud of locusts (again, the first sound on the record!) and then Alan begins keening the brief lyrics in his most strident and off-kilter tones, it is at the very least bracing. Eventually Mimi plays a basic drum beat, but most of the song is still just that almost sickly droning bzz and Alan sounding, more than ever before, like a man with a "The End Is Near" sign.

And all the little babies, they're all gonna die

One of my problems, I guess, is that going all the way back to Crowded House I (like a lot of people, I assume) have identified more or less with the singers I like. Certainly there are bands and records I love despite finding them semi-alien (The Holy Bible springs to mind), but even with something like the Mountain Goats' Tallahassee one of the things I adore is the way Darnielle makes me empathize with those people. And so it is with Alan. It's wrong to conflate him with the songs, but it does happen to some degree; it's wronger still to conflate me with what I get out of the songs, but still. Do I identify with him/them? Well, yes. What does that say about me, and what do these songs say about Alan? Neither answer is simple (in fact, I'm kind of leaning towards ineffability for the former at the very least), and neither is terribly apparent to me right now. But despite a tendency in Low's music that comes to a head in "Pretty People" that I normally don't like in people I can't in good conscience pretend I don't identify with it too. That would be going backwards; the right approach is to instead accept the stipulation that I do still identify with the Alan of this song and then see where it takes me, however hesitant I am to do that.

All the poets, and all the liars

If I hadn't known that Alan and Mimi were/are Mormons and you had asked me, I probably would have figured them for Puritans. Oh, we're already in trouble! Is there any good connotation to the word 'Puritan' in this day and age? Does anyone say something is puritanical in anything but the pejorative sense? Maybe I'm still just feeling the aftereffects from Stephenson's masterful Baroque Cycle, which I finished last night and in which the main (arguably) character is in fact a lapsed Puritan of a sort, but I don't mean it in the kind of caricatured way people tend to these days. Yes, at times Alan and Mimi seem... not so much judgmental as suspicious of pleasure, tranquility, complacency, the easy way, the obvious. The kind of people I'm thinking of are, above all else, stubborn, especially in their refusal to be reassured. One of the things that keeps their faith from being off-putting to me, someone who possesses at best a radical different sort of faith, is that this restless certainty that vigilance must be eternal is turned upon themselves as much as or even more so on everyone else. Listen to "Whore" or "Immune" or "Lust" or a number of other Low songs; are you so sure they're talking to you? Or are they, like Aurelius in his Meditations, seeking to remind and reinforce themselves?

And all you pretty people

What disturbs me the most, then, is the way Alan sings his lines. He has often, from Trust onwards (if not before, but I would mark "The Lamb" as the first time I noted it) sounded nigh on feverish, like a man sweating out his demons. Even The Great Destroyer had its moments of queasiness and it is a feeling that envelops Drums and Guns (to its aesthetic benefit, I should add). But as much as there has always been a kind of fierce glee in his direst pronouncements on self and others (another thing that, rightly or wrongly, makes me think Puritan), on "Pretty People" there is something almost unholy about the way he sings "All the little babies, they're all gonna die" (and tomorrow or Monday I just might do "Walk Into the Sea" to show the contrasting side). He's not quite happy, and he's not quite mocking, but he is too close to both for comfort. It reminds me of something that Slacktivist has noted repeatedly in his detailed and excellent takedowns of the Left Behind books, the way that the real glory for the books' authors seem to be not so much ascending to Heaven as reveling in the way everyone else goes to Hell. I don't think that's how Alan actually feels, naturally (or even necessarily that "Pretty People" is sung by someone we should identify as Alan with no deviation, although that certain seems a little more likely). In fact, the other thing the almost triumphant air of "Pretty People" brings to mind is Stoicism. We are all going to die, after all, and sometimes there is a mean kind of joy in ensuring that everyone else hasn't forgotten the fact.

You're all gonna die

But still, what does that say about me?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Overhead

Yesterday at work (my unexpectedly long working day being the culprit of TMW,TMW's silence on Tuesday, by the way) I bought the "Dinosaur Act" single, b/w "Overhead" and "Don't Carry It All." This was pretty significant for me, the same way getting Teenage Fanclub's phenomenal Four Thousand Six Hundred and Sixty-Six Seconds: A Short Cut to Teenage Fanclub was. In the latter case, that compilation was the first time I'd ever purchased a best-of type compilation where I already owned all of the non-exclusive tracks; the three new songs and the opportunity to own "Everything Flows" again after I'd sold A Catholic Education convinced me, and sure enough those three new tracks were great enough (and the disc is a good enough introduction, as a loaner) that I don't regret.

"Dinosaur Act," meanwhile, marks the first time I've bought a disc where I already own the exact version of every song on it. The box set A Lifetime of Temporary Relief collects up "Overhead"/"Don't Carry It All" and of course "Dinosaur Act" is one of the highlights of Things We Lost in the Fire and indeed the band's career. So the single marks the point where I officially acknowledge that Low is one of the very few bands that I love enough to collect. With most acts my focus is on ensuring I own everything I love in the smallest possible shelf space (so, for example, my joy at Belle & Sebastian's EP collection, Mogwai's EP+6 and 50,000 Fall Fans Can't Be Wrong, which let me ditch 3-4 discs), but with Low pretty much anything I see that I can afford I'll buy.

glenn mcdonald does his usual fantastic job describing the physical single, and as he had since gotten over how blown away he was by "Dinosaur Act" he spares a few words for its b-sides. "Overhead" he says is "an ominous, murmuring noise-collage, Alan and Mimi's voices gliding over loops of incidental guitar twitter and a steady, train-like kettle-drum pulse, perhaps Low's own response to their Bombscare EP collaboration with Spring Heel Jack [which I would still love to hear - Ed.]." The work they've done since makes "Overhead" seems even more typical than it probably was at the time, as it could fit on Trust or (with a little production tweak) Drums and Guns easily. My usual method with posts here is to listen to the song on repeat as I type, and "Overhead" is one of many Low tracks that sounds fantastic that way, one long loop of paranoia and fear. Alan's guitar scraps and Mimi's thud are both well within their musical comfort zone (although the beginning reminds me a bit of "Do You Know How to Waltz?" weirdly enough) but this is one of their darker efforts, almost a quieter brother to something like "Don't Understand."

It also, now that I look at the lyrics for the first time, remind me of John Hillcoat and Nick Cave's tremendous The Proposition. Cave and Warren Ellis' (no, not this one, that one) soundtrack to the film, which I also picked up at work, is an amazing thing and some of the atmosphere of "Overhead" reminds me of it. To say nothing of the words:

Wanted
Bring him back alive if you can
All said
You can tell your lies to the dead
Overhead
You don't have to like what you're fed
Overhead
Overhead

Wanted
Bring him back alive if you can
Trusted
You don't know how fast it could end
Overhead
You don't have to like what you're fed
Overhead
Overhead
Overhead
Overhead


It does sound a bit like the interplay between Captain Stanley and Charlie Burns, and the doom-laden tone of Alan and Mimi (as well as Alan's guitar keens in the interlude between verses) only reinforces the way the song evokes the dully fatalistic, brutal kind of atmosphere that The Proposition has in spades. Of course, the song came out in 1999 and the movie in 2005. But I'm not proposing any sort of direct relationship so much as a kinship of feeling, and "Overhead" is one of Low's best pitch-black songs - I do kind of wish it had been on one of the albums, actually.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Just Stand Back

Aaaaaand we're back. I flew back in from Vancouver on Tuesday but between going right back to work at the used CD place and hanging out with my girlfriend (also significant quantities of jet lag, sleep deprivation and an open bar wedding reception last Saturday) I just couldn't bring myself to update my personal blog, let alone Too Many Words, Too Many Words. Still, I find myself more than a little refreshed by the break, now that muzziness has (hopefully) fully been washed away from driving across this great country of ours. The Praries were especially trippy, there's something surreal about all that flatness and speed.

As you might know from the entry below this one, the night before my friend and I set off on our road trip the girlfriend and I drove to Toronto to see Low live (well, and Wilco). The experience was great, as always, and in the car I played her Drums and Guns as well as The Great Destroyer so that she'd have some familiarity with what they might play. I actually lent them to her at her request a week or so before, but like me she has trouble getting around to things sometimes. What struck me most, however, and what made me wish I'd included this album on the MP3 CDs I made for the trip, was how great an album The Great Destroyer is for driving. I mean, yes, it's still a Low album, but as I noted at the time the differences are much more than just skin deep. The record has taken on new depths in my estimation now that they've shown with Drums and Guns that it may in fact be an offshoot rather than a new direction, and there's something joyous about the songs, even as they still partake of the stark menace that I'm realizing more and more as I write my way through the catalog is Low's real calling card, that makes the open road (well, the 401) the perfect environment for them.

This isn't an album review, so I'm not going to get into how I think this plays out overall, excepting a quick mention that the sequencing and track selection of The Great Destroyer is absolutely fucking flawless. I also mentioned in my review the three tracks ("California," "Step," and our subject today) that strode a good deal closer to pop than most of the band's work, but I think pop was the wrong word to choose; radio rock might be more appropriate, which gives you an even better idea how weird they are from the standpoint of the rest of Low's work (hey, stuff as far back as "Venus" or "Over the Ocean" could be described as pop, or at least populist).

"Just Stand Back," from the opening guitar crunch onwards, best sums up the wide open road feeling that surfaces so oddly on The Great Destroyer, and for once when Mimi harmonizes along while Alan sings "Here comes the knife / You better just stand back / I could turn on you so fast" my response is not hushed reverence but rather to lustily sing along (slightly off-key, I'm afraid). Mimi might not be a very flashy drummer, but here as in the rest of the record she's in the pocket enough that I find myself thumping the steering well in time, and Alan is clear enough in his aim that they mainly stick to a few perfunctory, cryptically mocking verses ("It's a hit / Its got soul / Steal the show with your rock n' roll" is, like many of his lines, both biting and oddly self-incriminating) before launching into that linked series of refrains that constitutes both chorus and fadeout. The aforequoted lines are not miles away from the sort of thing Low often include in their songs; the difference with "Just Stand Back" is the kind of breezily heedless way they sing them. Normally any sort of threat of cutting would be bleak and deliberate and more than a little unsettling. Here's it's effective precisely because they don't sound like they're paying too much attention to you, and so you might actually get cut (cf. The Wrens' "Surprise, Honeycomb," one of the best songs ever written from the perspective of a spree murderer because it doesn't go out of its way to be cryptic).

The Great Destroyer doesn't really have a narrative (nor do any of their albums to these ears, save maybe Drums and Guns) but even if it did I'm not sure where "Just Stand Back" would fit in. Musically, the kind of change-up it provides is an essential part of the album's success (although I'm glad they kept things varied, as an album of "Just Stand Back"s and "Step"s might be a bit much), but lyrically I'm at even more of a loss than normal except for vague generalities. Once again I wish the song backgrounds part of the site had been kept around for longer.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

One more thing before I go

I once again underestimated how fast shows at Massey Hall start and how crap driving in Toronto is, so I settled into my seat when Low were part-way through "Take Your Time" (they only played a 45-minute set, so I think I missed one or two songs at worst). To make matters worse, Massey is a deeply shitty venue when you get stuck up on the second balcony, and Low were on the right side of the stage. As we were on the right, I could see Alan and sometimes Matt but only rarely Mimi's head. Matt (the new guy) acquitted himself ably, especially on what Alan announced as a WII-era chaplain's organ, which was definitely present on the album version of "Breaker." I don't care how crap my seats were, or how short the set, or the fact that I had to ask one guy behind us to shut up (he was gracious about it and I thanked him) - it was the highlight of my night. I realise a guy who writes a Low oeuvreblog isn't the least biased witness, but Jeff Tweedy of Wilco praised them on this, the last night of their Eastern Seaboard tour by saying that Low "played thrilling music every single night of the tour" and that they "kicked our ass every night." That's partly just graciousness, I know, but there was an element of truth. Certainly when I saw them it was true (it doesn't help that I hate Wilco's last album, although I do like Nels Cline).

After "Take Your Time," they played:

Dragonfly
Point of Disgust
Cue the Strings
Hatchet
Murderer
Pissing
Violent Past
Breaker

For a few songs they brought out the organ, and Nels Cline sat in on lap steel for "Murderer" and an even more incredible version of "Pissing" than I heard last time. Similarly, "Violent Past" and an organ-less "Breaker" were rocked the fuck up in a really interesting way (I'm a bit too tired to articulate exactly how, but "Breaker" especially showed that if they wanted to continue down the path of "Everybody's Song," they could). "Hatchet" was also much improved, given a kind of effortless poppy bounce that I wish they'd used on the album (as much as I loved the live "Breaker," and we do desperately need another Low live album, I do prefer the album version in that case), which makes for the third or maybe fourth version of that song I've heard, and if I wasn't getting up at 8 am tomorrow to start driving to BC I'd do an entry on it now.

As it is: Low is still incredible live. I can't wait for their next headlining show in Toronto. I'm out for a week and a bit, enjoy yourselves.