Low – Things We Lost In The Fire: Round 70 – Tom’s Selection

220px-Low_-_Things_We_Lost_in_the_FireRather like my ‘Guilty Displeasures’ theme way back in our 14th round, as far as I am concerned, the random choice idea didn’t really come off. In the former, we sat around listening to records that we didn’t really like …where’s the fun in that?…whereas the Random Round’s rationale – to unearth those forgoten records that get easily passed over when we come to make our choices but that turn out to be gems all along – was circumvented by the fact that the selection was truly random (despite my friends’ suspicions)  and, hence, threw up a series of surprisingly predictable Record-Club-like selections. The near misses – Ornette Coleman, Eleventh Dream Day – whilst being, perhaps, not as pleasurable/captivating/other (more applicable) adjective to listen to as what was actually brought, might have moved us further away from the standard Record Club fare we would normally offer up. Both Caribou and Elastica were fine listens (as is Things We Lost In The Fire in many respects) but that was not really the point! Nevermind…maybe we’ll have to try again some time.

Things We Lost In The Fire, Low’s fifth album, is the album that followed Secret Name (which Rob had brought to a previous meeting) and whilst it contains a few great songs, it has never quite held my attention as much as an album like it (full of well written and exquisitely performed songs, generally slowed to a funereal pace and sung in hushed tones and peerless harmonies) should. I have never quite figured out why this should be so as it ticks so many boxes for me…but I do know that I can’t ever get over the drop in quality when the perfect opener, Sunflowers, transitions into the tedious dirge of Whitetail. And I think its the juxtaposition between the very very good that punctuates the album at regular intervals, and the mundane or mediocre that crops up every so often, that limits my enjoyment of the record.

So, unlike The Wrens’ Meadowlands, where the sound of the record is the jarring factor for me (and there is no way back from this, to my mind), on TWLITF it’s frustrating just how close to having a bona-fide classic Low were. Why they had to release TWLITF as the three sided 55 minute long record when some judicious culling could have resulted in the double wammy of reducing chaff whilst making the album a more manageable listening experience, God only knows…all I know is that of all the records I have brought to record club, this one represents the choice I have been least excited about playing to the others. Bloody stupid theme if you ask me – whose idea was it again?

Nick listened: I guess if I’d thought about it, the ‘random’ function on an iPod often throws up seemingly unrandom selections and juxtapositions. I suppose this is because, as random as it is, it’s still picking from a collection curated by an individual, with, presumably, some kinds of consistent tastes or aesthetics running through their library in one way or another. So perhaps we shouldn’t be that surprised by what the supposedly ‘random’ selections brought up?

I own this – or, more accurately, Em brought this into our joint record collection when we moved in together. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to it. We own a couple of other albums by them, but the Christmas one is the only one that ever gets played. Generally around Christmas. I really appreciate what Low do, and I enjoyed listening to this, but I’ve never felt passionate about them in any way. I would gladly listen to it again; loved the Albini sound with their intrinsic slow delicacy.

Way, way better than The Wrens.

Rob listened: I guess I’m as close as DRC has to an official Low representative. I’m like one of those kids at a model United Nations, only sitting behind a table with another kid in black and a girl slowly hitting a snare drum. Very, very slowly.

I understand the way this them worked and the sort of responses it has generated. I know that’s the point. I’m struggling hard to let this one go. See, the comments above, all valid, are letting a stunningly beautiful record go slipping by as if it were nothing, a vaguely pleasant offering. ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ is a thing of great wonder. If the world were forced to attentively listen to it once a day, the world would be a better place. I have spent parts of my life listening attentively to it and my life has become a better place as a result. I listened attentively to it this evening, when I could, and those bits were the best bits of the four hours we spent together.

I can’t really imagine what a bad Low record would sound like, and as such I have to be realistic about my partiality. However, any album which can finish with a run of three as strong as ‘Like A Forest’, ‘Closer’ and ‘In Metal’ deserves to be hoisted onto a pedestal and worshipped.

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