Wednesday, May 7, 2008


first attempt at strings, the pop tradition. the baby sounds are from one of the cello players' daughter. the timing was so perfect we had to leave it in.

They certainly do like baby sounds, eh? When I read the above in the old song backgrounds page, I didn't remember them at all, but sure enough if you listen (instead of hearing it in your head; as the Radio Lab show on earworms noted, what you hear in your mind is never the actual song...) at the end just as they wind down some tiny person wakes up, makes a kind of cough/gurgle/cry. It does seem kind of fitting, but not to this song specifically; just to songs ending, things needing to be attended to, and so on.

Hearing "Condescend" (and indeed, the rest of the EP) later than most of the albums, I'm not struck by the strings the way a Low fan of the time would have been; the song starts out with some close mic'ed acoustic guitar (almost two slow to be called a strum), and just as the brushes start on the drums (I'm not sure if there's any bass on the track), these cellos come in. They anticipate, shadow, and prolong the brief vocal melody that Mimi sings in the middle of the track. It's easily the loveliest and most conventional song on the EP (although, depending on your standards, I guess the snowbound original version of "Will the Night" rivals it on the former point).

It still sounds like a brief, slight acoustic interlude from a 'normal' band melted and stretched like taffy until it is neither brief or slight any more; the lyrics remain about the same length as in our figurative source, but are more painfully oblique than most songs this pretty would deign to include:

To a point
You will fail
So I'll condescend

Without doubt
You will fail
Then I'll condescend

At a point
I will fail
Still I condescend

That's not quite the whole thing (later Mimi will reiterate the first verse and cycle through all the permutations of "___ I'll condescend"), but it's the important bits. She sings it with a little less spirit than normal, dropping syllables in time with the downbeat and the decline of the cellos; for much of its length "Condescend" is instrumental and lovely, but when Mimi sings it gets a bit starker, and a whole lot more airless. It's a difficult trick to pull off (especially with such a paucity of lyrical content to hold on to), and one that might be of questionable value to some listeners, but I'm always happy to succumb to it.

1 comment:

Inverarity said...

You know, at some point I'll get tired of saying "One of my favorite Low songs." But Dead Pilot does such great, weird things in a fairly short running time, and this is one of the stand-outs.