2003 Year End Thoughts
Ian Mathers
The Beauty of Low

this was the year that I finally, belatedly discovered the music of Low. I'd had some of their music sitting around for a while, and I always sort of liked it, but it took the worst transit experience of my life to weld the band to my heart, where they have stayed.

I live in the city of Guelph, and when visiting friends elsewhere in Ontario, I go through Toronto most of the time. I take a Greyhound up to TO (with a student card, a mere $20 round trip), walk over to Union Station (after a quick look at the massive music stores and a few purchases, naturally) and take either a GO Train or Bus to my destination. It normally only takes me 3-4 hours to get somewhere that would take 2 driving, and the fees work out to about gas money. And honestly, I like the time. I like the actual act of traveling almost as much as the destination, and one of the places where I am happiest is in the passenger seat with headphones clamped to my head, watching the roadside whirr by and listening to a great album. The scenery keeps my mind occupied just enough that I don't get bored, but I can focus fully on the music in a way I often can't otherwise.

This particular trip I'd gone to visit my friend Paul in the city of Courtice (near Oshawa, if you're a fan of Canadian geography). It was now Sunday night and I worked in a steel factory (making forklift forks) at 3pm the next day. Getting home on the weekend is always a bit tougher, as the GO Station in Oshawa doesn't have train service; instead you catch a bus there to a GO Station closer to Toronto and get the train there.

This time, when the bus got there (Pulp's This Is Hardcore almost finished on my headphones) and I stood up to get off, the bus driver told me, with no small annoyance, that I couldn't get off here if I was going to Union. If I hadn't had my headphones on I would have heard that the train wasn't at this station due to a mechanical failure and he was taking us to the next one down the line to meet it there.

I still remember pulling into that station, seeing the train there, feeling relief.... only to see the train pull away. The bus driver’s jaw literally dropped. Because the train couldn't have waited maybe five minutes, he now had a busload of enraged passengers who were going to take out their frustration on him, regardless of the fact that it wasn't his fault.

After much haggling on his part with his bosses (and this was his last shift before going home to his family, so his generosity was amazing) he told us he was finally allowed to take us direct to Union on the bus.

I was already panicking, however, as I had only allotted an hour to get from Union to the Greyhound station. Normally that's no big deal, as it takes maybe ten minutes, if you're in a hurry, to walk that. But we were, for the first time in my long patronage of GO Transit, late.

I put Readymade's peerless The Dramatic Balanced By in my discman and tried not to panic. Normally I planned to catch the second to last bus back to Guelph, but this weekend Paul and I had been having enough of a good time I'd held off on leaving and the bus I had planned to catch was the last one to Guelph until 6:30 the next morning. I could not stay up that long and then go to work for eight hours in a steel factory, grinding down welds.

We were making okay time until the cops blocked off the street we needed to take (you can't make this stuff up) and the driver let those of us in a hurry off to take the subway. I ran to the subway, got as close as possible to the bus station, and ran to it, luggage and all.

I only missed my bus by about five minutes.

Thinking quickly, I noticed that there was a bus to Kitchener, very close to Guelph, two hours from then, at 2:30 or so in the morning. I exchanged my ticket for that one, and sat to wait.

The plan (which, thank God, worked) was to get to the station in Kitchener and call my friend Erik who I worked with and beg for a ride. Luckily it turned out he was still up at 3:45 when I called, and I got to work fine the next day.

But it was the bus ride home that changed things. I got in, sat down, and realised I needed to sleep. I suck at sleeping in vehicles of any sort. What to do? I did have a Low album with me (The Curtain Hits The Cast), maybe that would soothe my weary nerves and ease me into sleep.

The third song on that album is called 'Over The Ocean', and it is truly lovely. Vocally, it consists mostly of a heavenly harmony recitation of the line "I'm over the ocean". You can't describe why it sounds so good. It just does. As I finally edged towards sleep, something very rare for me happened. I identified totally with the song. In my fatigue riddled mind, 'the ocean' became the gulf of stress, fear, worry, and effort the night had been, and I was safe in the bus. I was drifting over it, above it, it couldn't touch me anymore.

That was the soundest sleep I had all year. When I woke up a bond with Low's music had been forged which I'm sure is unbreakable. Since then they have sounded to me like comfort itself.
Reviewed by: Ian Mathers
Reviewed on: 2003-12-23
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