Sunday Night Journal — September 2, 2007

Music of the Week — September 2, 2007

Louis Philippe: An Unknown Spring (again)

In an unprecedented development, Light on Dark Water devotes two weekly reviews to one piece of music.

I suppose—no, I know—that part of the reason popular music has such a hold on me is that it makes use of both words, my natural and favorite medium, and music. Really good pop music is not pure or absolute music; it has to be about something, in a literary sense. In last week’s rave about this album I never gave any indication of what it’s about. I think the content and placement of the songs would repay more close attention than I have time for, but here are a few things worth mentioning.

The majority of the songs are about romantic love, very fittingly so for the very romantic musical atmosphere. These are lyrically rich and fresh, giving new life to that old, old subject which sometimes seems exhausted. But the opening and closing songs deal with war and peace. Although it’s a little obscure, the opener, “No Sun, No Sky At All” seems to be a description of the moment when normal life is interrupted by the onset of apocalyptic war. The closer, “Wild-eyed and Disheveled” is an address to the United States, colored by the Iraq war, that’s both affectionate and sad.

I keep coming back to the title song, which seems to deal with some of the things I’ve been writing about here for the past few weeks: the longing for what is transcendent and perfect, and the hope that when we reach it we will also find what we have lost along the way. There are a couple of crucial lines here that I couldn’t make out by listening, and Louis Philippe himself kindly answered my email asking for the lyric. Here is the key stanza:

For it’s God’s own justice
If we all dream like this
If we all keep looking
For an unknown spring

What I like so much about this is not just the reference to the fact that we’re looking, but the fact that we must look; it’s the way we’re made, it’s what we’re designed for. Of course you really have to hear it sung; the melody is instantly memorable, a higher moment in an album that’s almost all high moments.



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