martes, 1 de marzo de 2016

High On Low

photo by Christian Simonpietri

After the hype of being the world's current top rock act while simultaneously drowning in cocaine had come crashing down round 1976, Day Vid Beau Wee came up with an album which transmitted his state of despair and self-loathing in an amazingly direct way. From the very first grungy tones on, Low is every emotion someone may be going through when they are trying to kick a life threatening habit. Low is joy and pain, revolt and submission, flight and fight, a whole lot of shaking going on. Low is pop and electronics, simple and intricate, low brow and high brow, bad taste and good taste, boring and exciting, repulsive and attractive, to listen to in total solitude and to dance to at parties. Low is most likely quite precisely what it was like being Day Vid Beau Wee at the time of making. It is, in that sense, a remarkably honest account by a man who was used to hiding behind masks. Low is naked music, to be listened to in an empty room with few clothes on and preferably hung over or otherwise weak.

There is something truly wonderful about Low and it starts with the fact that the title comes before the music. This seems obvious, the first thing you do with a new album is read the title, if only to give yourself something to munch on while listening to the music – why on Earth would the man call this music low? - until you realise the title is about how he felt before he started making the album. There is after all nothing low about this collection of songs. With the implicit intelligence of youth I had always sensed there was no immediate connection between title and music and had therefore considered it more of a name than a word with a clear meaning. For all I knew, Low was a bar in Berlin. If there is a link at all, Low is about fighting low. It's about being desperately up beat, about staving off demons, about getting rid of oneself and running away from low.

In its attempt to create something out of nothing, the only way available to someone who has just flushed his daily routines down the sink, Low is a work under construction, ideas more than fully edited songs, dreams more than realities, outlines more than anything so banal as content.If anything, Low's incompleteness is about shaping hope, hope for escape, hope for rebounce and for new and hopefully more natural highs. From a man running away from his nightmares and his illness, Low could never be anything other than a signpost signalling a new future.

Perfect medicine

Because of its brutal honesty, Low is the perfect medicine for anybody going through rough times. When you are trying to quit smoking, are facing the side effects of a broken relationship, need to get to grips with the loss of a friend or even just have difficulty waiting for spring to come, those 35 minutes are your ideal companion. They take you on a roller-coaster ride which almost always leaves you feeling slightly better. Do at least include Warszawa, and know the full length gives best results. (You register you're listening to Brian Eno as well and you promise yourself to dig into him.)

The healing qualities of Low are well known among fans of the day, while later on many newbies hooked up to the feel, rendering belief to the idea. You start with a spaced out dance hall band on speed of life. That's a dose of energy you need to tune in to. I always thought Station to Station was his first attempt at not being nice. Now he was just making it hard for all. You have to get through this, because you know there's great music waiting. As always with Beau Wee, some songs fall smoother than other ones, but in the end they're all good. It only takes time to like them.

Breaking Glass in your room again, is the story of a man who is psychologically mistreating his girlfriend with calculated absence. This was a tough one early on. Next up: What in the world can you do, I'm in the mood for your love. The band make it sound like the cry of a horny wolf. The Dallas 78 concert opens with this song, in a more danceable rhythm, same intensity.
Sound and vision offers the first chance to relax and is an early favourite, a very well reduced dance routine of floating beauty, the kind of song you play twice when it comes along. The song's blue room, claims a not necessarily trustworthy news source, is what the man's lodgings looked like. He was apparently writing his diary in as few words as possible. It sure makes you wonder sometimes.
Always crashing in the same car is a drunken garage drive routine, according to rumours adventured with Mr. Pop on shotgun. There's a sense of unpleasantness which smoothes out in synthesizer tones. It's a song to have to like every time again. And it almost always succeeds.
Be my wife is an exquisitely balanced lament on rock guitar. It's not too difficult to feel sorry for the singer, an early sign of refound lust for life by the way, as it is a heart wrenching cry of a man filled with self-loathing, still not coming to grips with the situation though he was in the process of crawling back. The video showed him faking it, adding an extra instrument to the score. Great song. By now you have shaken of your early inhibitions and are totally committed to Low. You go with the low. By my wife is danceable of sorts.
A new career in a new town signals the moment when Beau Wee lets go. The orchestra slip into melancholy. You know here is where he leaves you behind, now you had better find your own reason to give it another try. The rest is chamber music, with the band hidden behind the wall. And every time at this point you realise, yes, he's right, one might as well be serious. It is Low's main quality and the source of its healing powers. But it is also something which you have to go through every time again, the whole ordeal, although in the end emotions flatten. It needs to be laid aside for periods, sometimes long ones. Personally, my main retreat from Beau Wee lasted twenty years, ever since breaks have been for sanitary reasons only.

There are other ways to listen to Low. It's well-made music, as usual. Beau Wee is always convincing. This drives many people mad. They hate Beau Wee with an equal fury as fans adore. They don't like the truth to be lied about, I guess. I say, as long as you know what he is talking about, who cares if he's lying.

Low is worth money, if you are willing to feel the groove. It only featured significantly in the first post album tours of 1977 and 1978, with “Heroes” included along the way, and some found its way onto Stage. I have played an early show once but I never came to copy it. I don't know if it still exists. The Dallas 78, was about the time that we in Europe were getting to groove the new Beau Wee, with Low, “Heroes” and Stage in quick succession. The first I have found is the dancehall band on speed of life in May 78, playing heroes in Bremen in the bandleader's early rock god days. But that is next time's story. There's been something before this on the web is all I can say. Seek if you can. And remember, Beau Wee offers the subject but he doesn't give answers. He always refused to bear responsibility.

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