Saturday, April 14, 2012

Album Review: Low – The Great Destroyer

2005’s The Great Destroyer is the sound of Low casting off their shackles, loosening up and having a blast.  Opening track Monkey is possibly their most sinister yet, with Mimi Parker pounding the drums as she and Alan Sparhawk sing about “tonight you will be mine… tonight the monkey dies” as Sparhawk tears it up on his guitar.

This album has been billed as Low’s ‘rock’ album, and certainly Sparhawk’s guitars on California and Just Stand Back would bear this out, and all the while with veiled threats in the lyrics (the latter’s “here comes the knife… I could turn on you so fast”).  California is an almost classic style rocker, and the distortion is turned up to the max on Everybody’s Song.  Sparhawk channels his inner Neil Young on When I Go Deaf and also the towering On The Edge Of, like prime slices of 70s Crazy Horse.
It’s not all in-your-face-rock.  Silver Rider is a more classic Low midtempo brooder, while Cue the Strings is reminiscent of Will the Night (off Secret Name) with just a little added menace.  The addition of children’s voices on Step doesn’t entirely work and Broadway (So Many People) with its queries of “where is the laughter?” is a little overlong.

But it’s the final three tracks that really round off this album with a flourish.  What can be said about Pissing other than it’s almost as sinister as Monkey.  Starting quietly, with minimal instrumentation and lyrics, it explodes with guitars halfway through as the insistent melody plays on.  But this has nothing on Death of a Salesman, a sparse acoustic strum with sneering menace from Alan Sparhawk as he sings “I forgot all my songs, the words now are wrong and I burned my guitar in a rage”, before the final track Walk Into the Sea which strays back towards traditional Low territory, albeit with slightly more prominent guitars.
This album upset some fans of Low’s more traditional, doomy sound but I find it refreshing to see the band aim for new territory.  And most importantly the songs are extremely strong.