Single Review: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “If We Were Vampires”

“If We Were Vampires”
Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Written by Jason Isbell

Not since Wynonna recorded “Sometimes I Feel Like Elvis” has the title of a song so beautifully mislead me about its contents.

“If We Were Vampires” is a gorgeous, achingly beautiful love song that explores the connection between immortal love and earthly mortality. The title is only mentioned once, as an interesting contrast: “If we were vampires and death was a joke,” Isbell observes, “I wouldn’t feel the need to hold your hand.”  It is the truth being the opposite that fuels the declarations of love throughout the song, because “one day I’ll be gone or one day you’ll be gone.”

Isbell is nearly without peer as a songwriter right now, with a unique talent for capturing the shades of life that too rarely see sunlight. My personal favorite from this song comes early, where he notes “the way you talk me off the roof, your questions like directions to the truth.” More is captured about both characters in the song in those two lines than most songs even brush up against.

What a treasure this man is.

Grade: A

 

3 Comments

  1. “[I’ll] give you every second I can find / And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind” is the part that gets me every time. :'(

    Beautiful song; and it does make a good point about how deep love can be rooted in knowing our time on Earth is finite and thus wanting to make the most of it (whereas to immortal beings, time would be far less precious).

  2. Awesome lyrics. I’m fortunate to have had 40 years with my wife. It’s a sobering thought that even though we’re both in good health, it could be soon that one of us will have to spend time alone. Not that the young have any guarantees – accidents, illness, etc. and the best laid plans …

    I like this verse that Gena mentioned:

    Maybe time running out is a gift
    I’ll work hard ’til the end of my shift
    And give you every second I can find
    And hope it isn’t me who’s left behind

    Wish Isbell had a better voice. It’s what has kept me away from his music.

  3. I think Isbell has the absolute perfect voice for his music, in large part because he writes to it so well.

    “Cover Me Up” wouldn’t work nearly as well if he had pipes like Chris Stapleton, because the the way his voice frays as he strains to hit the high notes perfectly captures the desperation and need of the speaker.

    The way he embraces, and uses, the limitations of his vocal talent is something I’ve only really heard with Townes and 90s Steve Earle.

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