From a 20-something-year-old’s perspective, life feels incalculably long and full of promise. Your whole life is, quite literally, ahead of you. You’ve prepared for this moment – the real deal – for some time now, having been in school for the majority of your life until recently. Now you’re off, doing things. Living life.
And then, life happens. The world turns around you, and you move with it. Time marches forever forward, pushing and pulling you in all sorts of unexpected and exciting directions, until suddenly you find yourself on the other side of life, looking back on years of fond memories and experiences. You had your share of fun – years and years of it; now, it’s someone else’s turn to carry the torch.
Age humbles all of us, which is what makes The Slow Show’s song “Ordinary Lives,” sung from the older generation to the younger one, so powerfully sobering.
I’m proud of you boy
Look how far you came
proud of who you are
happy how you changed
I won’t see you much more
But that’s ok
I can rest assured
That you‘re happy
Watch: “Ordinary Lives” – The Slow Show
Led by singer Rob Goodwin’s deep, emotive and stark vocals, Manchester five-piece The Slow Show have a talent for crafting deep, brooding music. “Delicate music and lyrics paint a portrait of humanity’s tortured, beautiful mortal soul,” I described in Atwood Magazine’s album review for the band’s debut White Water (released March 2015 via Haldern Pop Recordings). “Its volatility reflects the rawest aspects of the human experience.”
It is no surprise that The Slow Show continued their terrifying exploration of the real in 2016’s prolific followup Dream Darling (released September 2016 via Haldern Pop Recordings). This is the music they were born to be making: Poetry that cuts us to our core, breaking us in ways we didn’t think were possible by holding plain mirrors up to our faces. Goodwin doesn’t have the dramatic swagger of Plant, Jagger, Bowie or Mercury; he isn’t larger than life, but rather is tethered intimately to the ground, anchored to reality through the poignancy and beauty of mortality.
Goodwin describes Dream Darling as an album made by five men who have “gone through the typical life-changing experiences that men in their late thirties and forties experience.” “Ordinary Lives” is the record’s towering centerpiece, the quintessential embodiment of that sentiment and its deserving single. The song sets the stage immediately, with Goodwin beginning a one-sided conversation with a warm, bittersweet demeanor: “I’m proud of you boy, look how far you came… I won’t see you much more, but that’s ok.” He continues:
But I am not afraid
I can see so clear
Proud of who I am
It‘s time to disappear
This is my farewell
I can‘t stay here
I‘m looking at the crowd
Hope they understand
That everything is changing
The band’s minimalist music swells in the chorus as Goodwin repeats, “Everything is changing.” His words become increasingly moving as horns build to a climax around his voice, making the meaning all the more chilling. We don’t often hear things from the other side of life. Music typically caters toward one’s own celebration, not the passing-off to another. Most young people are too consumed in themselves to look at life that way. The Slow Show, with their careful, emotional string arrangement and the interplay between guitars and piano, bring their audience face-to-face with an inevitable future.
The music video for “Ordinary Lives” takes that message home, placing it front and center with an unusual video featuring vintage photographs of the same woman found in a series of photo albums dating from the 1960s to the 1980s. “Most of the photographs show a woman standing somewhere in a scenery – scenes from life and travels, being taken by her husband, who unintentionally but naturally documented the change of the times, by means of fashion, hairstyles, cars, the photo material itself and last but not least, the ageing of his wife,” says directorial team SpringerParker, who used a technique called parallax animation to animate parts of each photo (a moving clock, a passing cloud) in subtle ways to further stimulate the senses. In essence, the “Ordinary Lives” video allows us to watch a life that is by now long gone unfold before our very eyes.
The directors put it best: “We can only assume that the couple passed away years ago, along with their stories, and the fact that nobody was interested in keeping the photos inspired us to bring these forgotten memories back to life. These images represent people who have been forgotten, people who loved and were loved, crossed other people’s paths and touched their lives. Who lived their ordinary and not so ordinary lives.”
By the time Goodwin sings “This is no ordinary life” toward the song’s end, our tragic mortality has been exposed. We are all superhuman, yet human… His words fall heavy and hard, but their raw sincerity sits easily on the ears and in the heart.
Experience “Ordinary Lives” in the comfort of your own room. With such stirring music and touching lyrics, The Slow Show have the ability to make one feel unsettlingly real, giving listeners an often-needed dose of poignant truth. Our lives are not eternal; each of us is a flame that will wither and fade, just like these old photographs. We may each lead extraordinary lives, but at the end of the day, ours are all ordinary lives. Live on, enjoy the music, and go tell your loved ones that you love them.
Dream Darling – The Slow Show
:: The Slow Show Tour 2016 ::
OSLO (NO) – Gamla – 12 Nov 2016
UTRECHT (NL) – Tivoli Vredenburg Ronda Hall – 14 Nov 2016
BRUSSELS (BE) – Botanique Rotonde – 15 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
COLOGNE (DE) – Kulturkirche – 16 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
HAMBURG (DE) – Knust – 17 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
BERLIN (DE) – Gretchen – 18 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
MUNICH (DE) – Ampere – 19 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
ZURICH (CH) – Plaza – 21 Nov 2016
DUEDINGEN (CH) – Bad Bonn – 22 Nov 2016
LONDON (UK) – Bush Hall – 25 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
BRISTOL (UK) – Louisiana – 26 Nov 2016 SOLD OUT
RAMSGATE (UK) – Ramsgate Music Hall – 27 Nov 2016
LEEDS (UK) – Brudenell – 28 Nov 2016
MANCHESTER (UK) – Gorilla – 29 Nov 2016