by Ben Diamond
Last week I was staying with a friend in the Midlands. We were in the kitchen, he’s always singing snatches of various vocal melodies and somehow he retrieved this one from the recesses of his memory. The next thing you know I’d listened to it fifty times in 48 hours.
It’s one of those tracks that you couldn’t possibly have conceived of before hearing it, and after hearing it couldn’t possibly imagine it not having existed for all time.
The track starts off with a – to my ears, anyway – jubilant guitar line, which then transitions into a beautiful vicissitudinal interplay between the bass and guitar, before finally settling on pre-empting the vocal melody. So in the first minute you have the jubilant wrong footer, the mini-dialogue, and finally the killer melody, and by the minute mark the bass has taken on that familiar low-end comforting plodding quality. Meanwhile the drums have that production which is sort of shitty as it feels separate from the rest of the instruments, something to do with the sharpness of the recording – that sense of them being distant or far away, the sting taken out of them – but at the same time totally works with the track. It has a Joy Division-ish feel to it and the ability to summon a very particular yet indescribable mood is something I really admire in this track. The guitar line mirroring the vocal line also reminds me of Sonic Youth’s Schizophrenia.
The lyrics speak for themselves. I particularly like that the NZ accent is preserved. It gives it a local character and flavour. Thom Yorke might be my all-time fave but he still sometimes mangles his vowels to sound a little more American and it induces an infinitesimal twinge of disappointment. People sound at their most genuine when they sound like themselves. The question posed to the listener – ‘What can I do if she dies?’ is totally disarming here. ‘How can I live when you see what I’ve done?
How can I live when you see what I’ve done?’ Two lines sung exactly the same in quick succession, but the last syllable is sung differently in the first and second instance. It’s amazing how much power and meaning can be derived from the simplest of changes.
What a fantastic song.