"Long Limbed Girl" / Nick Lowe
I'm beginning to realize that I am never going to come down from this Nick Lowe high. After seeing him last week in Milwaukee, and actually getting him to sign my copy of his new album At My Age, I'm pretty seriously addicted. As if I weren't before.
I went to sleep last night with this number styling away in my brain; woke up and it clicked right back in. For all I know, I probably dreamed about it in between, too. But you see, that's a good thing. This song ripples right along like a mountain stream, with a lilting beat and deceptively crafty phrasing (a Nick Lowe trademark, those little stutters and inversions that continually mix things up). On the album it's done with a charming retro pop arrangement, upbeat and yet laidback, but I'm thinking of the way I heard it in Milwaukee, just raggedy Nick and an acoustic guitar. When you've got a song this solid, you don't need anything more than that.
The premise is simple: a guy's going through some old papers and photos, he comes upon a snapshot of an old girlfriend, he takes a moment to wonder what's become of her since. But oh, what Nick does with it! There's the glint of admiration in his voice as he recalls her, "tall and slender / as a willow tree," and the flash of longing when he notes "and she had her arms round me." I imagine him sitting back and lighting a cigarette, taking a long contemplative drag. He's not just lusting after Girl As Object; he's yearning for the relationship, the sort of relationship you can only have when you're young and carefree. "So young and foolish / And so in love," he remarks, marveling all over again. It's his lost youth he misses, more than the girl herself.
That gentle rollicking rhythm is significant: Nick's not kicking himself over losing the love of his life, he's just idly musing. He goes on to speculate: "well, I wonder about you / And if you made it through / And had all your dreams come true / Or has it been a long and bumpy road." How subtle and brilliant is this? I immediately guess that the girl was too restless to stick around; and that it's been a long and bumpy road for him since, so naturally he assumes it was for her too (later on he changes the "bumpy" to "bitter," also very telling). And all done with so few words, a veteran songwriter's sleight of hand. Less is more indeed.
Nick's vocals sound so warm and relaxed, we just know he's come though things all right. The whole thing is painted in sepia tones -- "the edges are starting to curl" -- because he can put it into perspective now. It's just so damn confident, so mature. There's part of me that's jealous as hell of whoever that long-limbed girl was, for sure. But another part of me is pulling out a photo of a tall dark-haired guy with hazel eyes and wondering...
Long Limbed Girl sample
PS You haven't bought this album yet? What are you waiting for?