Wednesday, April 23, 2008

La La La Song

So a combination of last minute thesis scrambling (it's handed in now, I just have to pick up the bound copies once they email me and then go graduate), laziness in the wake of said last minute scrambling (this is the first time I've done nothing without guilt in a few years) and that Low documentary I posted about have left me a little unsure what to cover next, and when to do it. The time is now, obviously, but aside from knowing I wanted to tackle something off of Trust, I wasn't sure what.

"La La La Song" is, from title on down, relatively unprepossessing. Nestled away in the run of three short, relatively poppy songs at the end of the album between "John Prine" and "Shots & Ladders," it's even less immediately striking than "Little Argument With Myself" and "Point of Disgust." It starts with something that has historically been relatively rare in Low songs, an acoustic guitar, and Alan and Mimi sing like they're round a campfire. Alan's voice is a little drained, even when he's singing "Had your way with an unsuspecting public" to whoever he's addressing; he sounds tired and benevolent and maybe a little apathetic. There are handclaps in the background.

Between each verse the two lean away from the microphones and sings "la la la"s as an electric guitar cycles in the background, below the acoustic. The whole thing feels like a respite, a pause between more vigorous outings, and after watching You Might Need a Murderer (which, I have been told, will be released in the US on Touch & Go) I need one of those myself. Not that the lyrics are wholly innocuous:

I have learned all your secrets, so familiar
I know where you lay your head
Fear of god* and a disappointing father
Holds the hand around your neck

La la la ...

Sometimes I could just choke myself with laughter
Sometimes everything's so true
So when you come down from your death-defying labours
I'll still be in love with you

La la la ...

*('god' is left uncapitalized on Low's site, although I'd hesitate to assign too much importance to that)

There's a bit of a turn in Alan's voice at that 'laughter,' but the whole verse is still put across with this calm beneficence that is found virtually nowhere else on Trust (even "In the Drugs" is more fraught, albeit also more comforting). During the last set of "la la la"s Mimi starts thwacking away at her kick drum every so often, but other than that this is a remarkably even-toned latter day Low song. If I was trying chop down Trust into something shorter (remarkably for me, not something I'm interested in doing), this wouldn't be one I'd keep, but I'm glad it's out there. A low of the weight in the song is put on that weightless chorus, which especially with Mimi's later drum hits aches towards a kind of relief and profundity that rest of the song doesn't really even look at.

But really, my own high standards for the band notwithstanding, can't they have album tracks that are just good songs? Does everything have to fit into some sort of scheme in my head that 'explains' the band? I like "La La La Song" and the part that tends to run through my head when I think of it is that sweet "So when you come down from your death-defying labours / I'll still be in love with you" part, which despite the rest of the chorus I can't help thinking of as directed at each other. It's a nice song, with a bit of the tension/weirdness that I love about Low creeping in around the edges. Just because I'm still wrestling with what I think of what was in that documentary doesn't mean I can't enjoy songs like this one in a pretty uncomplicated way.


Inverarity said...

I think of it (without much evidence) as a self portrait from the perspective of Mimi. Which is pretty self-deprecating. I generally don't much care for the confessional mode of songwriting, but I have a tendency to want to view Alan's songs that way. Possibly because of the way they resonate with me.

Oh, hey, wait a minute! "Point of Disgust" is very striking! As is most of the second side! But I'm sort of biased because of how much I've internalized tracks 8-12.

Ian said...

Note that I said less immediately striking! I love all of the tracks on Trust, but these three shorter ones tucked away between "John Prine" and "Shots & Ladders" (both of which I found immediately riveting/disturbing) didn't hook me right at first. But you're right about "Point of Disgust," although that'll have to wait for its entry...

That's an interesting take on the lyrics, and a plausible one; although it then becomes even more interesting that Alan is singing lead. Not for the first time, I wish they'd kept the old song backgrounds page more up to date.

Inverarity said...

Sort of a hall of mirrors interpretation, I know. But hasn't that some charm?

I find "John Prine"/"Little Argument with Myself" to be one of the most riveting and wrenching pairs in the catalog. They've been linked in my hearing from very early on.

Hey, have I mentioned lately how ludicrous certain reviews of Trust are? I guess it's an album that takes a certain darkness of mind to appreciate, but c'mon... Low are a terribly misinterpreted band by a lot of people, though; that people think of them as some generic "pretty quiet music" astonishes me.

Ian said...

I think I missed how striking, and even intimidating in a way, "Little Argument With Myself" was the first few times through just because it was such a relief - anything bar Scott Walker's later albums or "Rosegarden Funeral of Sores" would be a relief - after "John Prine." But I definitely have some different feelings about it now. But we'll get to that one eventually...

scowan said...

This is an amazing blog.
I have a great many moments ahead reading your past posts while listening to the songs.
Thank you.

Ian said...

Well, holy shit! Thank you!

That is definitely motivating me to get some more posts done. Hope you like the archives as you go through them.

Anonymous said...

strange - i think this is not only the one of the best songs on trust, but one of lows' best. they totally nailed the perfect love song here. one of those songs that could be played with a kazoo and bongos and not lose any of its power.