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Low
The Great Destroyer
Rough Trade

THE NAIVE EAR
Years ago I had an experience that deeply affected my way of relating to art. I had arranged to meet up with a good friend I hadn't seen for some time. When I walked into the semi-trendy cafe where he had suggested we meet, I noticed a miserable-looking young man next to him. At that point in time I did not yet know that how inappropriate some people consider naivete and pure excitement to be, but I was soon to learn. I mistook my friend's friend's sullenness for shyness and greeted him friendily asking him whether he perhaps was a student (like myself)? He quickly corrected me by relating that he was a painter, a graduate from an (allegedly) prestigous art college in Oslo. He somehow managed to say the word painter with a capital P. "I am a Painter." He also told me that he was the chairman of important committees and boards that had to do with Very Serious Art. I quickly learned that he himself was the genius behind Several Cutting-Edge projects in Oslo. Being really slow I had not yet realized that my uncultured friendliness was offensive to him, and as we were on the subject of art, I happily told him about a 'Youth and Art' project exhibition I had visited. It had really excited me, and I wanted to this important Art Person how amazing I thought it was that such young people with little formal training in art managed to accomplish pieces that really spoke to me! He quickly set the record straight by telling me that "The Naive Eye Cannot Appreciate Art". I. e. the teenagers I was praising could not make art and naive me could not possibly understand it. Only graduates from prestigous art colleges could appreciate art. Art was lost on me! My naive eye meant that my experience of appreciation was an illusion. According to Mr Painter it had no real value.

You might wonder what this story has to do with Low's recent album The Great Destroyer (TGD) and here it is; As a virgin writer on music I worry no end about whether my perspective has any interest to others. I know that I have a 'Naive Ear' when it comes to music, and my question is: Do you have to understand to be entitled to broadcast your appreciation? And if so; what are the requirements? I had never listened to any of Low's music before I heard TGD. I liked it instantly, and as I listened more closely to the album I felt like I had found something valuable; a band that was entirely new to me and whose music gave me great pleasure. I then felt obliged to listen more closely; what was it that I liked so much? I realised that my favourite songs produced images in my mind based on how the music made me feel and little snippets of the lyrics. I felt I knew what the songs were about until I read the lyrics on the Low homepage. Sadly, I found that I didn't understand what they meant!! I think the first track on TGD; "Monkey" is perfection. In my Naive Ear way I'll tell you why; It's very, very rich but somehow not too much (a little like a good Banoffi pie). It's sexy in a cool way (like real italian ice cream), and it's mysterious but not pretentious (resembling how my boyfriend always makes better hot chocolate than I do). But my internal images of "Monkey" have nothing in common with the lyrics of the song when I read them as a whole. So "Monkey" means a lot more to my naive ear than to my learning ear. The same is true for some other favourites, like "California" and "Cue The Strings". What follows from this? That I should just shut up and listen, keep my opinions to myself as I clearly have no real understanding anyway? When taking in someone's creation, that being a painting or a piece of music, are we obliged to understand the artists' message or can we indulge in pure, naive, unadulterated enjoyment? Do the reasons why we like a particular band or album matter? I already know what sullen Mr Painter would say, and I am terrified that some Mr Music wil come along and ruin my appreciation of music as well. But maybe I've already made up my mind; I might not understand Low's The Great Destroyer, but I've given it a lot of thought and I am certain that I like it.

Distribution in Norway: Tuba!

Copyright © 2005 Åste Herheim e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Low articles/reviews: C'mon, Low-talk with Mimi Parker, Musik-Tanz-Club, Cologne, Germany, 01.11.1999, No Comprende, Ones and Sixes, Some Hearts (At Christmas Time), The Invisible Way, Things We Lost In The Fire, Trust, Whelan's, Dublin, 18.11.2000.

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