Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Hazards of Love

Today is Valentine's Day, which is not only a Hallmark Holiday, but an emote-on-cue holiday to boot, so I hope everyone is obediently feeling the emotions associated with romantic love. If you are not doing so, then consider yourself history's greatest monster or, at best, a pitiable wretch stranded forlornly on the outside of humanity looking in.

Though every instance of romantic love is a precious, unrepeatable, utterly unique snowflake of human drama the like of which the world has never known, each is also uncannily, nay monotonously, like every other, differing only in the most trivial details of times, places, and labels. The latter applies to others and their predictable loves, not to you and yours, dear reader.

Fortunately, the emotional states and the events underlying them are the substance of countless songs, poems, stories, and films -- truly an embarrassment of riches if anything is. I try to be helpful even if I don't try very hard, and in that spirit, I here present a few select songs that may jar your memory of precisely what you're expected to be feeling today.

Bob Dylan, "She Belongs to Me" -- that dignity and restraint are no match for love:

Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" performed by Rufus Wainwright -- love analyzed, not to say overcome:

Death Cab for Cutie, "I Will Follow You into the Dark" -- love's penchant for producing extravagant claims:

Billy Bragg & Wilco, lyrics by Woody Guthrie, "Remember the Mountain Bed" -- the idealization of love's intimacy as shaped in the memory:

The Pixies, "Cactus" -- love's obsession:

Thurston Moore, "Silver > Blue" -- Thurston Moore has the good sense to realize that whatever lyrical distance or sophistication he tries to bring, it won't contain love, but music might come close:

Neko Case, "South Tacoma Way" -- that love will outlive the mere human beings who temporarily inhabit its spaces:

U2, "With or Without You" -- because I will always love my mother (love takes forms beyond the romantic), and I will say no more on that:

Liz Phair, "Divorce Song" -- love can die, and it almost never dies happily:

The Mountain Goats, "No Children" -- after a time, it's possible to make light of the pain of lost love; meanwhile, it's useful to vent:

Kings of Convenience, "I don't know what I can save you from"* -- what can you really say when love falters? Words can no more restore it than they can conjure it in the first place.

Notwithstanding my bluster at the start of this post, these are among my favorite songs -- "Hallelujah" and "Remember the Mountain Bed" constantly trading first and second place -- and that's because even snark, as much as I cherish it, is no match for love. Love wins, even over Valentine's Day.

Cf. "The Hazards of Love" by The Decemberists, itself a compilation of love's various states and stages, and one well worth checking out.

* I know just enough about Lost to know that the video here consists of footage from it (the comments to it help too). I trust the song is a fair enough match for the scenes and characters shown here. If not, blame the internets, not me. I chose it for the audio quality.


larryniven said...

That's one of my favorite song archetypes, the mountain bed one. There's that and "Sixteen Maybe Less" by Iron & Wine and "Young" by Nickel Creek and "Harvest Festival" by XTC and who knows how many other ones. That was a particularly good version, though - the Guthries really knew their stuff.

Dale said...

Another thing about that song --- it's almost the only song worth having on the album on which it appears. Volume I of the Wilco-Bragg-Guthrie venture is truly excellent; Volume II has "Remember the Mountain Bed" and a bunch of crap.