Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Certain Songs #994: Low – “Words” | Medialoper

Album: I Could Live in Hope
Year: 1994

Often credited with helping to invent the sub-genre known as “slowcore,” a reaction to the noisy noisiness of grunge, Low had their sound dialed in from the very start of their debut album, I Could Live in Hope.

With Alan Sparhawk’s guitar tuned way down, John Nicols bass dominating the mix and Mimi Parker’s drums approximating someone walking down the street lost in thought, “Words” was a perfect way to introduce them to the world.

And while it might have seemed too much to have every song on I Could Live in Hope have only a single word as the title (and only two of those titles have words of more than one syllable), those titles helped contribute to the overall world-weary vibe of the record.

Also contributing: the spooky echoed vocals, especially as Sparkhawk and Parker harmonized on the chorus.

And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm
And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm
And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm
And I can hear ‘eemmmmmmmmmmm

And while you might expect those harmonies to be John-and-Exene dissonant, they were actually incredibly lovely, and revealed a sharp melodic sense, which of course is absolutely going to be needed when you’re eschewing any kind of flash in your music.

I didn’t find out about any of this for years: in 1994, I had very little interest in what I’d been told Low sounded like, and didn’t really have the opportunity to come across them accidentally, either. It wasn’t like they were being played on the radio. So I remained blissfully ignorant of their first decade’s worth of records until — well, actually, I’m still working through those records, not having listened to them until 2005’s The Great Destroyer.

In any event, all these years later, a song like “Words” resonates with me way more than it would have back then, especially the way it just unfolds, never even bothering to hurry for even a second, because hurrying would have been beside the point.


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