TONIGHT THE MONKEY DIES
Today Low released a new record called The Great Destroyer. I walked down to the nearest record store just after they opened, and then rushed back home, ripped off the wrapping, and put the sucker on. It made me feel kind of nostalgic. I can't remember the last time an album has been released and I hadn't already heard it. I had missed that special feeling of actually holding it in my hands, having no idea what was inside, seeing the packaging, puzzling over the song names. You don't get that in the digital age, where sometimes you can download albums months in advance. (The new Erasure album came out today, too, and I've been listening to it since November.) I know there will be a day in our future where such associations are gone (the ridiculous scam that is the iPod Shuffle is the attempt to start marketing us away from tangible media), where books and records and movies are no longer objects that require shelves, but I hold out hope that there will always be folks who are just a little bit crazy and who will want things done the "old way." Cassettes were the main mode of transport when I got into music, yet I ended up loving vinyl. Here's to the future versions of me!
My instant reaction to The Great Destroyer is one of intense like. I end up questioning, though, where my satisfaction with it lies. Is it just because it's a good record or because it's a good Low record? I am sure much is going to be made of the supposed shift in sound, away from the quiet drones played as simply as possible, moving towards more complex arrangements and melodies, a la the single "Canada" off of their last album, Trust. But really, it's not that drastic, and certainly not unprecedented in their canon. There has been ample evidence that this was coming on recent albums, or if you listen to the 55 tracks in the box set in order, as I did yesterday, you'll hear that the glacier has been steadily melting since the "Lullaby" demo. And the vocals and the guitars on The Great Destroyer still have the same beautiful clarity as one would expect of the band.
So, I find myself asking the question, isn't it the responsibility of fans to grow with the artists we admire? Am I rooted in the same place that I was in when I first saw Low play live in 1994? The club isn't even there anymore, so why would I expect to freeze that moment in time? It seems that the double-edge of having fans is that while they will support you, they can be dastardly in their insistence on the familiar. Their tenth album doesn't have nearly the fire and passion of their first record. Oh, really? That's quite an observation. I've never heard anyone crack open a body of work like that! It's because with the first album, you have your whole life that preceded it to write the tunes, and the next ones, you only get a couple of months. Oh, my goodness! It's as if Aristotle has become a music journalist! The thing about this band is, you either love them or hate them, there is no in-between. I had no idea that Sir Isaac Fucking Newton was amongst us, collecting such scientific data. You mean to say there is no one that couldn't care less in the entire world, who isn't either offended by the sound of this band or completely in love with it? I have never heard anyone be so insightful and make such an observation, oh, in the last five minutes or anything.
Maybe the real message of The Great Destroyer is we need to tear down all these preconceptions that we walk around with. If you think you know an artist, change your approach to how you take in their work, and certainly how you discuss it; in turn, expect them to change what stimulus they give you. (And, yes, that can mean rethinking how said art is delivered to us, too.)
Current Soundtrack: The Primitives, Pure
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2004 Jamie S. Rich