11. The Wrens – “Nightswimming”

By Stereogum / September 25, 2007 - 3:29 pm

The Wrens On “Nightswimming”
“But OK, why I like the song, ‘Nightswimming’ … just ’cause it’s beautiful. It’s simple, almost like one of their older songs (well, older as in ‘early to mid ’80s’) — harmonically, although their songs usually are (sets of four chords, four times etc.), and arrangement-wise where there’s a good old fashioned worked-out piano accompaniment part. It’s not just chords like Sir Elton would play (that is the first and probable last time I will type the phrase ‘Sir Elton’) and it’s not just a counter melody on the piano like say, the Cure would play. It’s actually both — a riff that drives the song around the block the whole time and the chords to show the scenery changing behind it.

“And I love the was Stipe sings it in that it sounds not only like he may have done whole chunks of it in a couple of takes but that he may even be working the variations of melody out — where the various syllables are gonna go rhythmically & melodically — kinda on the spot, too. Just a hunch I get — I could be completely off it and it’ll turn out they slaved on this for a year straight and overdubbed every breath and glottal noise. I also like that if you listen to right before the strings come in, you can hear what’s probably a mixing mistake and the strings kind of burp out there for a second, go away, and then come in properly. Ah … pre-computer mixing.

“I don’t like the maudlin English horn or whatever that is at the end. Makes it sound like an ’80s BBC comedy has just returned from a PBS pledge-drive break.

“So all that stuff I love about the song, I basically crapped on in our version. Sorry, R.E.M.”
-Charles Bissell

The Wrens

Mike Mills On “Nightswimming”
“Great song. Michael had some ideas floating around. Normally his ideas come after the music, and in this case he had some ideas he wanted to put down. He’d been looking for the right musical situation, and I came in with that music one day and he loved it and we worked it out in, I think, one day.”

Check out You Say Party! We Say Die!‘s cover of “Nightswimming” here.

“Nightswimming” lyrics
Nightswimming deserves a quiet
night.
The photograph on the
dashboard, taken years ago,
turned around backwards so the
windshield shows.
Every streetlight reveals the
picture in reverse.
Still, it’s so much clearer.
I forgot my shirt at the water’s
edge.
The moon is low tonight.

Nightswimming deserves a quiet
night.
I’m not sure all these people
understand.
It’s not like years ago,
The fear of getting caught,
of recklessness and water.
They cannot see me naked.
These things, they go away,
replaced by everyday.

Nightswimming, remembering
that night.
September’s coming soon.
I’m pining for the moon.
And what if there were two
Side by side in orbit
Around the fairest sun?
That bright, tight forever drum
could not describe
nightswimming.

You, I thought I knew you.
You I cannot judge.
You, I thought you knew me,
this one laughing quietly
underneath my breath.
Nightswimming.

The photograph reflects,
every streetlight a reminder.
Nightswimming deserves a quiet
night, deserves a quiet night.