Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Underwear

On Different Class, Jarvis partially sealed his fame with observations of affairs of the bedroom that were both wry and matter-of-fact. “Underwear” is the song where it all coalesces. In one light, it’s the most salacious song on the album; in another, it’s the most affecting.

“In sexual situations, underwear is the last line of defense,” Jarvis explained at one live gig. The woman described in the song, “semi-naked in someone else’s room,” is feeling especially vulnerable, not just because of the loss of most of her clothes, but also because her sudden feelings of apprehension and doubt. As is his wont, Jarvis approaches this scenario not gingerly, but with a sympathetic eye all the same. When, on the third verse, he gently tells the woman to “remember that this is what you wanted last night,” the song ties in with the themes of second half of Different Class, the way the supposed freedoms of young adulthood often fall short of expectations.

Compounding the doubt and confusion of the song, Jarvis sings it from the point of view of someone who ardently desires to be with her in such a situation. So while his end proclamation, “I want to see you in your underwear” could conceivably sound seedy, instead it gains an odd longing. “Underwear” is a song with two protagonists, both of whom are at that moment not where they want to be.

3 comments:

Bob said...

"Underwear" also stands out for using most of Jarvis' voices: the deep narrator voice, his mid-range talk/sing voice and then way up top. Hearing him casually move among them in a song like this is always impressive, especially if you're trying to sing along at home.

This one has another good example of his non-word singing thing (the "do-do-doooo" at the end), and for whatever reason, I really like the odd (to my ears, at least) phrasing of "Just you stood there..."

Mike said...

Good point about his three voices. I think I noticed the distinct differences around the time of This is Hardcore, but in most of those songs, I think he'll use two of the three, but never all of them.

"Just you, stood there..." I wonder if this is some sort of British phasing. It sounds right, but I can't precisely say how he gets away with it, grammatically.

Jonathan said...

It may also be worth noting that both Underwear and Bar Italia have a similar feel and tone to the start of Leonard Cohen's Why Don't You Try from New Skin For The Old Ceremony.