Beyond Love: On The Weakerthans’ “Night Windows”

Night Windows
The Weakerthans (song lyrics from here and here; song available here)

In the stick-count for the song
of knowing you’re gone
Glancing up at where you lived
when you lived here

I see you suddenly alive
and nearly smiling
Stop and hold my breath
and watch the way you used to be

The full moon makes
our faces shine
like over-ironed polyester

Then disappears behind the clouds
and leaves me under empty rows
of night windows

We could walk to where these streets
get pulled together
blinking, lined with gravel
shoulder squared towards an end

Where the radio resounds
from doppling traffic
Where the power lines
steal S’s from the hourly news

De-pluralize our casualties
drown the Generals out in static
We turn and watch our city sprawl
and send us signals in the glow
of night windows
night windows

(but you’re not coming home again
and i won’t ever get to say)

Remember how…
I’m sorry that…
I miss the way…
Could we…

night windows x 3

Commentary:

I think – not entirely sure of this – a stick-count is an isolated sound (i.e. a drumbeat) you use to keep time. This song is isolated speech until the end, when a chorus of voices repeats “but you’re not coming home again / and I won’t ever get to say” while the main speaker chants over it.

The easy imagery hits hard: the beloved isn’t there anymore, he only focuses on her (“watch the way we used to be”) when he holds his breath. The state of remembrance might as well be death; what is being remembered, that joy, is like “over-ironed polyester.” Too much heat creates a sheen that is sure to go, one that was unnatural to begin with.

Once the light of the moon is gone, things get more complex – we need to locate the speaker. “Empty rows of night windows” almost sounds like a blank musical staff: this song is beginning again in a sense. The only difference is that all is darkness now.

So he has to walk, and he walks in possibility. The nature of this possibility is curious: she’s dead, but because they did walk together, or may have walked together, the impossible wish is based on the actual. Possibility leads to impossibility back to possibility: perhaps death isn’t a going away, but a cycling in and out of existence.

The streets blink both in broken streetlights and yellow broken lines. They exist relative to each other – their shoulders stand end-to-end, their joining defines them.

Giving mind and body to the streets leads to the question of what sort of organism he’s confronting. The traffic in those streets again exists relative; “doppler shifts” consider two objects, an observer and a wave source. In this case, the “observer” is making a song, something that would play on the radio. What plays on the radio now – the hourly news – is robbed by devices of this earth. There is something more powerfully electric, by implication.

The speech and nerves of this organism are lacking. It is teeming to the point of incoherence: not casualties, but just one casualty matters now. The radio is more valuable for the “static” which drowns out the mass of voices, the present-day commands. The city will still try to communicate, of course, but its babble falls silent, literally, upon the night windows.

He’s been walking with his vision since the light of the moon disappeared. They’ve moved up as they walked.

The space for her is always there; the whole of life only moves around it. In everyone saying “she’s gone,” they still say “she.” Our speaker is within the organism, trapped. Love is more powerful than loss in another world; in our world, love is more powerful because of loss. We have moved from the possible to the impossible to the possible ourselves. We’ll know that world soon enough.

4 Comments

  1. This song is odd, sounds almost cheery, and then considering the subject matter. I guess time passes and it’s just life- even when something horrible happens- it’s just part of life and you’re left with memories, eh? I’m not gonna try and take that any further because I can see it going in a really cheesy direction.

  2. “Steal S’s from the hourly news” – the power lines, in taking the “S” away from “news,” make it “new.” If the artificial media of the city fell apart, something grander and more unique would be present, I think is the gist. Not sure.

  3. Dude, I still think that you are reading WAY too much into their songs. I will never agree that they are good or worth the listen. You may be my better at most all things intellectual, but I think you are crazy on this one brother.

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