Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Lover Don't Go" / Nick Lowe


This song absolutely devastates me. This wasn't the song that first made me love Nick Lowe, but it sure does seal the deal. On this album, Impossible Bird, Nick Lowe finally figured out how to cast aside the giddy rocker persona and reinvent himself as a grown-up, and much as I love the goofy youthful Nick, this seasoned crooner gets to me even more.

First of all, it's the way he sings it -- that slightly ragged, weathered texture to his voice, the soulful shiver he brings to that long drawn-out "go" and anguished downward slide on "please" -- the love-drunk adolescent of "Without Love" is long gone, replaced by a grown-up man who knows whereof he speaks.

And the clever wordplay is set aside, too, as it should be. When you're really and truly miserable, who has time to play around with words? There is a very gentle echo in the first verse lines: "There's a hollow in the bed / Where your body used to be / Like the hollow in your heart /Where the love once was for me." But it's that powerful, intensely physical opening image that draws the attention, not the double meaning; I can just picture the crumpled bedclothes, the cruel slant of daylight through the blinds. That millisecond pause before "bed" -- there's phrasing for you.

With brilliant restraint, he then lets fewer syllables do the work. "It's still warm," he notes numbly (can't you just see him running his hand over the bed, in shock?), then ruefully adds, "But it won't be for long." He's been around long enough to know how these things go. And even though he moans, "Lover, don't go / Please, lover don't go," I'm pretty sure the door has already slammed behind her.

Oh, she may still be there -- but he's no fool; he can tell she's already checked out. "I can feel it coming on /With the pounding of my head/ An emptiness inside /Like a nameless dread." He's mourning an honest-to-god relationship between two people who really had connected once, and don't anymore. In the bridge, we get the idea that they had some miles behind them, too: "What about the plans we made / And all the funny games we played / Can you really turn your back / Please . . . . " He can't even finish the rhyme.

He staggers through a few more fragments of the earlier verses, disintegrating as we listen. "It's still warm," he repeats, fixated dazedly on the physical details -- and that warmth in the bed suddenly stands for all the love lingering in his heart.

I'm drawn into this little drama absolutely -- I'm fretting, wondering what woman could ever walk out on Nick, when he clearly is so hung up on her. And yet he accomplishes all this with astonishing economy. The tempo is halting, and the arrangement wonderfully spare -- mostly just acoustic guitar strum and the drawn-out sigh of an organ, though in the bridge he adds echoing back-up vocals and the dejected kick of drums. All pretense has been stripped away, leaving just those emotions, welling up in the emptiness of that deserted bedroom. My heart's aching, that's for sure.

Lover Don't Go sample


Anonymous said...

Wow, Holly. I couldn't have said it better. Actually, only Nick can ;)

I'm enjoying Nick Lowe week. Keep up the good work!


Uncle E said...

tough words coming from "anonymous"...

Uncle E said...

Not you, anonymous. Holly must have deleted the other anonymous comment. Hey, I can't help it if I'm a Holly fan!