Thinking About “Deeper Down”
The song “Deeper Down” from Wilco’s 2009 self-titled album is a song that is made up of series of endings. It’s structure is like a spiralling staircase with a series of landings for you to stop on before continuing your journey down. There’s something underwatery about not just the lyrics (“underneath the ocean floor/part of who we are we don’t explore”) but in the ethereal chord progressions. There’s hints of psychedelia and a sense of a stop-motion world that you are being slowly submerged into.
It’s the kind of song writing that makes me stop and take notice. It’s experimental in a way that I can get behind. Instead of what usually passes as experimental (just making a song sound strange), there’s an actual hypothesis behind it. I can imagine Jeff Tweedy thinking, “What if I wrote a song made of up of endings? No verses or choruses just a song that keeps closing down. Could that actually work?” I really think it does. It plays with structure and expectations in a way seldom seen in song-writing. It feels kind of like a prank. It ramps up and then ends and then starts up again. If your not looking at the running time you might think for a moment that the song is only thirty seconds long. The pauses make the song episode, giving the band an opportunity to complete change the feel without being too obvious. Whenever it comes back from the pause it’s not as though it is suddenly a different song, we’re just in a new era now. The pauses feel like years have gone by and the song has been playing this whole time and we are just tuning in again now.
“Deeper Down” is a song that’s sinking. It has gravity. It’s an elevator stopping off at different tableaus. In this way it could also be a song about our dream life. In a dream we are typically thrust into the action without really knowing how we got there. We remember the ends of dreams, the moments before we wake up, but nothing that led up to that moment. I think this song captures that feeling really well. The verses barely connect with each other and by the end we are back where we started, but it feels like deja vu. It’s familiar, but something’s off.