Music

A Crooked and Unseen Highway: lowercase - "Slightly Dazed"

By the time "Slightly Dazed" is done, it's hard not to be as bitter as vocalist Imaad Wasif sounds.


lowercase

Kill the Lights

Label: Amphetamine Reptile
US Release Date: 1997-07-08
UK Release Date: 1997-08-07
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After 15 seconds, the silence is finally broken by a single grazing of a drumstick on a cymbal, followed by the shrill ring of guitar strings tugged and swiped at the head above the string guide. The volume builds. At 46 seconds in, the drums arrive in a rattling, lead-footed march. Finally, with a sharp wail of guitar feedback, lowercase dives in to “Slightly Dazed”.

“She Takes Me” faded out less than a minute before, but already the energy has shifted dramatically. As Piero Scaruffi, an Italian university lecturer and music writer, wrote some years ago in a post about lowercase on his site, from the moment “Slightly Dazed” begins, “the rest is a descent into a personal hell.”

”The eight-minute ‘Slightly Dazed’ is virtually a documentary of a man losing his mind, the guitar repeating an ominous pattern over a funereal beat until it becomes a death toll (the overall feeling being similar to Pink Floyd's early psychodramas)," Scaruffi writes. This view is coming from a guy who ultimately appraises the album as their best, rating it a 7/10 on his own personal scale.

At hardly any point in the song’s -- or, really, the entire album’s -- duration is it a passive listening experience. If you put Kill the Lights on when you’re cleaning your bathroom, you must truly despise having to clean your bathroom.

“Birth of it / What wine pours burdens shrouding / Death of it / Must also drip disappearing.”

It takes almost two more minutes for vocalist Imaad Wasif to work up to saying anything. When those three opening words, “birth of it”, finally escape his throat, it sounds as if he’s already hoarse from a screaming match. The music may have come on gradually, but it becomes abundantly clear that the tension has been mounting inside Wasif, as well as around him.

“Conjure it / Conjure for impregnation’s sake / Depth of it / Await libation to await discovery.”

“All of our songs just come from practicing, just like any other band, and then Imaad will start singing,” drummer Brian Girgus explained to Skyscraper. “I never know what the hell he’s talking about until we record it and then I kind of pay attention to his lyrics. He really captures a lot of things that I think have a lot of relevance to a lot of people -- I mean, they definitely do to me. It’s a way of thinking that, it can make sense to certain people, and certain people it doesn’t; but it makes sense to him [laughs]. That’s the important thing.”

“Our chalices ring empty / Our chalices clink brimming / Through body from skins abandon / Beneath nakedness as drunkenness.”

Here again, there are differences between the album’s lyric sheet and what Wasif actually sings. Where the differences in “She Takes Me” seemed closer to something like speaking-in-tongues-style improvisations made on the spot, the edit to “Slightly Dazed” appears to have been much more intentional. Above is the line as it is written out, but this is what Wasif ends up singing -- or, screaming, that is: “Our chalices ring empty / Our chalices clink brimming / I doubt you consider it / I doubt you remember it.”

If included in the final version of “Slightly Dazed”, the line “Through body from skins abandon / Beneath nakedness as drunkenness” would likely qualify as the song’s most confusing lyric, just from a purely linguistic or logical standpoint. However, it would also be perhaps the most clearly sexual lyric in the song. Not counting the bit about impregnation, of course. Instead, Wasif has replaced the lines with fragments pulled from the final lines of the song.

“Discover it / I may not have your answer / I doubt you consider it / I’m only oh so slightly dazed / I doubt you remember it / I’m only oh so slightly dazed.”

As far as what “Slightly Dazed” is about, all the wine pouring and clinking chalices point to a night of drinking. That much is clear. What follows almost certainly seems to be some kind of argument or misunderstanding. Whether or not it is romantic in nature, though, is not a given. The "impregnation" and "discovery" could indeed be sexual, but they could also be metaphorical. Without the nakedness and "skins abandon" to back it up -- having been purposefully abandoned by Wasif, for reasons surely known only to him at the time -- there isn’t enough grounds to say for sure either way.

Throughout the entire song, but especially in those final verses, Wasif preemptively one-ups what would become de rigueur in certain post-hardcore subgenres (i.e. screamo), by effectively acting as his own “auxiliary screaming guy”. Trading lines with himself by shredding his vocal cords on one, and then nasally drawing out the other, Wasif could be reenacting the argument, or he could be representing the kind of mildly schizophrenic personality changes that heightened emotions drowned in alcohol can induce in a person. Either way, when the trudging eight minutes of “Slightly Dazed” come to a gasping halt, with its bitter guitar arpeggio slowing down and ringing out one last time, it’s hard not to feel as drained as Wasif sounds.

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