Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Guided Tour of Vs.: Daughter

The most striking thing about Daughter is perhaps how inviting it is after the hurricane openers. The music warmly envelopes you at the start, and the song is a blank slate that Eddie slowly fills in during its initial moments with simple, but evocative images that set the scene for the familial psychodrama of the lyrics. There’s an immediate contrast between the music and the desolation of the scene. “Alone, listless, breakfast table in an otherwise empty room”. The imagery throughout the song is of family and home, places of peace, serenity, security. But something is clearly wrong. The violins(ence) lyric is artfully done, as on first blush it adds to the domestic tranquility of the scene (either the classical music playing in the background, or the child practicing her instrument like a dutiful daughter), but it hints at a deeper, American Beauty style undercurrent of fractured dysfunction, to say nothing of the song’s intimations that the subject is perhaps living out their fantasy from the confines of an institution, abandoned by anyone and everyone but herself. More than any other song on Vs. except perhaps RVM, Daughter returns to the theme of intimate betrayal and the struggle for survival in its aftermath.

There is a physical, emotional, even spiritual emptiness here. Whatever connectivity she feels to the world around her and the people in it is all illusory (it’s in her head) made more devastating by the subject’s desire for love, the eagerness to please. There’s no shelter from the earlier songs, although she keeps looking throughout Daughter, hoping to uncover it somewhere even as she refuses to surrender to the loneliness. The message is of course one of defiance—that even if the illusions of family and belonging aren’t real, the desire to find it, to rise above the broken world that makes it an illusion, is there. The song climaxes with the ‘She holds the hand that hold’s her down…she will rise above’ declaration, punctuated by a brief but cathartic solo that promises to cast aside the chains held in the hand. The final chorus follows with its “I don’t need you, I don’t need anyone, I can do this by myself’ mantra repeated with conviction over and over again.

But Daughter doesn’t end there. Instead you have the transition into the oturo that dials back the resistance. It’s much more tentative, nervous, less sure of its self. While Eddie whispers’ the shades go down’ the music starts to fade out and the listener is put in mind of someone walking down a long hall, away from the light of the small room that contains her spark, away from the hopes articulated during the climax into a dark, cold, uncertain future. You don’t hear the door slamming at the very end, but it may be that we’re just too far away to hear it. That might be even worse.

The key lyric here is the ‘shades go down.’ A shade keeps out the light. It traps us in darkness. It prevents us from seeing, whether it is the world around us, the people around us, or even ourselves. It traps us within our own ignorance, and speaks to a loss of agency that the record is railing against—the fact that the subject didn’t lower them herself, and would love to let the light in, if only she could figure out how.

Glorified G
Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town