Friday, July 11, 2008

Always Fade

So after a friend and I made ourselves sick by eating too much sushi tonight, I came home and I listened to some Underworld. Partly because I've been listening to a lot of Underworld recently, and partly because the band's genius mix of motorik style propulsion, occasionally soothing textures and Karl Hyde's heart-on-sleeve stream of consciousness seemed fitting to my bodily state after I awoke from my postprandial nap/coma and staggered home.

A little later, my head cleared a bit, and I sat down to finally make the TMW,TMW update I've been promising myself I'd do for, err, weeks. But I was still unsettled (I'm not sure I'm going to want to or be able to have breakfast before work tomorrow), logy, and while Underworld had been soothing (Second Toughest in the Infants - greatest "techno" LP ever?), I wanted something more jarring, more fitting to my mood. But given all that Underworld I'd been playing, I also wanted something a bit more propulsive than most Low tracks.

Of all the weird drum tracks on Drums and Guns, "Always Fade" is probably my favourite. It sounds a bit like a combination of some sort of drum machine and sampled/chopped/looped playing (Mimi's) and it semi-coheres into a rattling, syncopated, but definitely forward-moving loop, kind of like a metal barrel filled with stones rolling down a street (but less aggravating). Between verses the drum loop picks up complexity to fill in the track. The bass that backstops the drums (there's no guitar, as far as I can tell) is still patient and measured, if a bit more walking-paced than normal, and aside from an insistent shaker that ducks in and out of the track, that's all there is to "Always Fade" aside from Alan and Mimi's voices in calm unison.

Described, it sounds unspeakably radical for Low, like something you'd expect from a radically different band. But on record... it sounds like Low. Like a Low that is now comfortable with experimenting, expanding the borders of their song, but Alan and Mimi aren't exactly yelling or hurrying, and the lyrics are certain in keeping with their preoccupations:

Come clean, and off with your head
The streams of bright rosy red
Your heart will do the rest
And you'll always fade
You'll always fade
Someday you'll change
But you'll always fade

Cut free, the weight on your neck
The screams, the clutching of breast
So sorry about the mess
But you'll always fade
You'll always fade
Someday you'll change
But you'll always fade

It's actually pretty nice compared to most of Drums and Guns; the beheading imagery is grotesque, but no more so than "Embrace", and that was off of their 'happy' album, or at least the one people have seemed to find comforting. I mean, Alan and Mimi even play that sardonic little "sorry about the mess" line pretty straight. It's a song about the necessity of mortality and about accepting that, themes that are dear to my heart, and if they choose an exceptionally vivid way to get your attention (that "your heart will do the rest" line!), then so much the better. The extended (for Drums and Guns) instrumental coda is a nice touch, too, letting the listener revel in that weirdly compelling loop and Matt Livingston's perfectly placed bass notes for a bit longer. This is probably the track from Drums and Guns I'd most like to hear live that I haven't already, and that's only partly because I'm curious as to how they'd pull it off.


Inverarity said...

"So sorry 'bout the mess" is quite a line. It might be the sickest single line in the catalog, no? "Cut free, the weight" is such a delightfully horrible euphemism - hell, it's a euphemism that's worse than the plain statement.

"Someday you'll change" has always bothered me. What exactly is that supposed to mean? But it's the ambiguity that makes it work, I guess.

I think this song is hard to separate from the 2003/2004 time period of every-other-weekly internet video beheadings. The vividness of the language and the sick levity of the arrangement give the song a real sting. It's *so* black-hearted, yet there's a real pain and bewilderment at the root of it. It means a lot to me.

Ian said...

Wow, I was not thinking about Daniel Pearl, etc, in the context of this song. But you're absolutely right.

See, what I was thinking of, and this kind of answers your question (or tries to) about the "Someday you'll change" line, is that the song is more generally about mortality and the inevitability of death. Even if we change who we are, what we do, our beliefs... we always fade.