Reflective thoughts and a will to forget are at odds with each other in the new Ceremony video for their track, “Your Life in France.” The video opens with an image indicating the past: an old-timey music box, in classic black-and-white, playing some archaic chime. Then the track starts, a quick tempo and simply-stated single-note guitar riff. Singer Ross Farrar’s bellowed vocals create the façade of a pop-tune, as scenes of the everyday take the screen: a groggy wake-up, brushing teeth, putting on a record, writing in a journal. Farrar’s lyrics soon betray the song’s sunniness, as the camerawork flickers in chaotic cuts from a fist clenching to lit cigarettes. Written as an open letter of persuasion, it’s not necessarily to win someone back, but rather, to ask them to remember things the way he does, or to see things the way he saw them. There’s hopeful expectation in lines like, “Give your heart and soul to me,” contrasting against realities and the all-too-stifling practicalities in lines like, “…You couldn’t move, you couldn’t be / Love turned into reasoning, became so harrowing.”
It’s quickly realized as a retrospective look on pinpointed events leading up to what will inevitably be “The Separation,” (and the rest of the breakup painted all over The L-Shaped Man). Its memory flickers in manic rapidity, and the futility of rationalizing, or making sense of it, is present in every image. The visuals alternate between manifestations of frenzied reverie, hopelessly grasping at straws for a why and how: a fluorescent lightbulb on its way out, time stilled in a slow-motion walk across an overpass. It’s like watching sand fall through your fingertips, or cursing at the sky for a loved one to return. It’s the kind of pain that’s beautiful, not in its creation, or depiction, but in its universality. The video ends with Farrar’s city walk winding up exactly where it began, though his expression looks as lost as ever. The music box’s chime returns to hint at the impossibility of escaping the past’s power.
The L-Shaped Man is out May 19 on Matador Records.