Monday, March 7, 2016


Later this year, Vicky and I will be attending a Low gig in Cardiff. Low are the sort of somewhat-large American indie band who, in my experience, very rarely play in Wales; maybe their record labels aren't willing to pay £6.60 for the bridge, but whatever the reason, us Cardiff folk usually have to travel to Bristol (or further) to see the best bands in action.

For this reason, the news that Low had been booked to play a show in a converted tramshed in Grangetown this August was ecstatically received by myself and other like-minded locals. I picked up a pair of tickets on Saturday, and to celebrate this fact, I thought I'd share my thoughts on C'mon, my favourite Low album and a set of songs that I sincerely hope will be represented in the band's setlist on the 2nd of August.

C'mon is the sort of album that makes more sense in the dark. Listening to it is like lying in bed at night, watching as familiar objects - the wardrobe, the doorknob, the clothes piled in the corner of the room - assume unfamiliar forms. Things start to look like things they're not; monstrous faces appear in the condensation on the window.

C'mon is a great album to put on when you're struggling to fall asleep. Not so much because it will help you to fall asleep (lullabyic opener Try to Sleep is kind of a red herring on that front), but because its songs sound best when heard in that heightened-senses insomniac state of knowing that you should be asleep but actually feeling more awake than ever. These are songs that deserve a darkened room, total quiet, absolute stillness. I once listened to C'mon while walking around in the snow at night, and that muffled, otherworldly environment suited it pretty well too, but there are several touches here that really do work best when you're in bed.

Try to Sleep sets the scene nicely, painting a picture of someone - someone just like you - lying in bed, half-trying to nod off and half-trying to stay awake for fear of what might be lurking in the dark, watching you:

Sometimes, C'mon makes explicit reference to those things that go bump in the night. Witches finds Alan Sparhawk revisiting his childhood fear that there might be a coven of witches hiding in his bedroom; Majesty / Magic makes me think of the dancing ghost couple from Luigi's Mansion ("see how they twist 'round the room, oh majesty, oh magic"). Closing track Something's Turning Over is particular is terrifying, with a creepy final verse that's enough to give anyone nightmares:

"Every now and then I feel them breathing
Moving through the rooms so quietly
And just because you never hear their voices
Don't mean they won't kill you in your sleep"

At other ponts, the lyrics are more abstract, as if you're slipping in and out of dream while you're listening to the album. Done conjures up images of a vast, dry desert; Nightingale of a secret meeting at sunrise.

One of my favourite things about C'mon is Low's masterful use of the spaces between their sounds. In the album's most stunningly sparse moments - $20, the beginning of Nothing But Heart - you feel like Sparhawk and his guitar are right there with you, listening along as his music reverberates off your bedroom walls. Unhurried minimalism is what Low do best, of course, and at its best, C'mon is the ultimate crystallisation of that approach, perfectly evoking the silence and the tension of a darkened room that's so perfectly still, your own thoughts and feelings sound like the loudest thing present.

At least until the monster under the bed leaps out at you.

1 comment:

  1. My only (small) gripe is that my vinyl copy is slightly larger than 12 inches so it won't fit on my vinyl shelving and wont fit into the frames I have for the it lives next to my turntable....There's a LOW photo from the Brudenell in Leeds on one of my PhotoFridays if you scroll back through here ( ) - have my ticket for them ther again in August.....they never dissappoint...Bob the Chiropodist