Wednesday, February 27, 2008

From Your Place on Sunset

From your place on Sunset
The hills are on fire...

Thanks to the ever-highly esteemed Robert Inverarity (one of something like 5 oeuvrebloggers still going, if I can count myself), we have a genuine rarity in this day and age: A non-new Low song I not only hadn't heard before today, but had never even heard of. How does a band do that now, keep some material only to the lucky and obsessed?

Well, you release a vinyl-only EP in 2003 (this, which I also hadn't heard of), limit it to 2000 copies and do not put it on the internet. That latter part is crucial. In fact, don't even mention it in the "Single" and "EP" sections of the discography kept on your band's site. Somehow copies of the EP version of "Murderer" (which I will of course talk about when I get to that song) and b-side "From Your Place on Sunset" made their way to me, although I still haven't heard the alternate version of "Silver Rider" (in my imagination, it bears a relation to the original similar to the "20 Below Mix" of "Joan of Arc"). Robert's connection of this track to Sunset Boulevard is pretty genius, but I definitely don't hear any explicit shout-outs to Norma Desmond et al - so either he knows something I don't, or he's just being clever or (most likely) I'm still too wrapped up in the sound of the song to begin really parsing the lyrics. This is why I rely on Low's site and (as imperfect as it is) for lyrics; seeing them in front of me lets me focus on them in ways that hearing them sometimes precludes.

I'm not exactly angry that the band kept this one hidden, though - it's good-not-great, not a buried treasure to the extent that, say, Mogwai's "Hugh Dallas" is (seriously, if you're a fan of the latter band and you haven't heard that track, you may want to email me). It feels kind of halfway between Trust and The Great Destroyer to me, and fittingly so given the chronology; not as obviously studio-made as the former, with a guitar and room tone distinctly close to "Silver Rider" or "On the Edge Of," but a darkness and length more in keeping with Trust. For more of the eight minutes here we get what could be a slowed down, chorus-less relative to "Broadway (So Many People)," but the last two minutes mature into a cloud of guitar distortion as Alan and Mimi intone "la la la la" over and over, louder and louder.

As you might guess if you've been reading this site even if you're not a fan of Low, none of this is exactly far from much of the band's work, nor is the tense feeling of impending apocalypse present from the very first lines, quoted above. What sets "From Your Place on Sunset" apart isn't much; an unexpectedly firm sense of place thanks to the title (and Los Angeles is a tantalizingly unusual location for these guys - even "California" is clearly a Minnesota song), its obscurity and rarity, and an unusually well executed end-game conflagration. Not that the band usually bobbles that sort of thing, but even on third or fourth listen the suddenness of onset and intensity of sound kind of set me back. I'd love to hear them essay this live, and should they get to the point where another Lifetime of Temporary Relief is warranted this will be a nice surprise for fans, but I wouldn't go hunting on eBay for it.


Inverarity said...

I think the Desmond connection is purely fanciful, though I could have sworn I read it somewhere when I first found it.

I really like the denouement of the studio version, but in general I prefer the Retribution Guitar Choir's live version.

Ian said...

I thought it was Retribution Gospel Choir...

You have me intrigued, though. I'm becoming increasingly interested in general about the way Alan is willing to do the same songs under different names/sounds.