The Veils, featuring Finn Andrews, were one of those “discoveries of the Aughts” bands. Andrews has a truly unique voice, the kind that crawls inside your mind and finds where your soul’s been hiding. It’s always something of a wonderment to me, what a voice can do. But it happens again and again. Which, I guess, is one of the reasons I’ve posted comments on over 200 songs. There’s always someone else to mention, yet another example of that odd experience of identification that occurs when you find yourself living through emotions and reveries inspired not only by a turn of phrase (something I’m susceptible to, certainly) but by a way with a tune.
My song for today isn’t one of the more overwhelming vocals from Andrews—I’d go with “Lavinia” for that, and some of the tracks on Nux Vomica (2006). But the songs on The Runaway Found (2004) were the first I heard by the band, thanks to my daughter Kajsa bringing their stuff around, putting it on tapes, and generally making sure I heard some of it, so that I couldn’t ignore this singer.
“The Tide That Left and Never Came Back” is a line that would get my attention in any case. I’m all about tides and oceans as an image for all kinds of things: time, the majesty of the sea, the sense of desolation that occurs when one is left high and dry—stranded—by the outgoing tide. It’s a great figure for a certain kind of loss. And yet the song really kicks, more than most of The Veils’ songs. In fact, listening to it for this post, and glancing at the video made me think that pop tunes are mainly about guys wooing girls. Which makes me wonder why they should matter so much to me.
Am I saying there’s something effeminate in the listener’s position? Maybe so. But of course, in most cases, I obviate that association—if it occurs—by identifying with the singer. He’s not addressing me as “my love” and the like. I’m him, singing about someone who came to town and then moved on. “’Cause it’s a small town / And it misses you my love.” Yeah, if you know what it is to be stuck in the rut of one place while more venturesome people come and go (like in a college town, y’know), then you can perhaps identify with this speaker too.
On that score, here’s the kicker: Though memories fade / It’s still you that I find / If only you would stay / And not leave me behind. Reminds me of the old Woody Allen advice: in relationships it’s always better to be the leaver than the leavee. Because the leaver leaves, but the leavee is . . . left. Seems our man Finn is feeling some of that. I’m glad that he allows that “memories fade” though. Because sooner or later one reaches the point in Leonard Cohen’s “Can’t Forget”—“I can’t forget / But I don’t remember who.” Suffice to say this here town has seen 'em come and go, and some of 'em shoulda stayed longer.
For all that moroseness—and Andrews is someone who mines morosity pretty regularly, one of those moody, emo dudes who seems perpetually suited with the trappings of woe—the song feels ascendant. I guess because “the tide that left and never came back is on my mind tonight” doesn’t sound so glum. Sure, the tide didn’t return but it was here, once upon a time. And even if you’re primed to live from now on with its long, withdrawing roar, you still are better for having been inundated at some point. The surge of that tide that almost carried our man away is what the song seems best to express. We can miss someone who has been and gone without eating our heart out overmuch, right?
It’s not so much about making her stay “here” but about maybe having the wherewithal to get shut of that “small, dead, broken town” oneself. Though I guess it might cheer her up, a bit, to think that the town is still there, missing her, that maybe this or that street or store or stop bears some indelible association with the time when she was there.
I’ve heard the three albums by The Veils that were released in the Aughts, but have yet to pick up the one they put out in 2013. Maybe I should, lest the band seem a tide that left and never came back. Like the Aughts, in that regard.