So much has been written about Low, and their latest album, 'The Great Destroyer' has certainly gotten its fair share of press time. The band appears to have been going through awkward growing stages. Tired of playing slow and quiet, they've slowly increased the pace and volume of their music over the course of their past three albums. And, for me, it's been a pretty painful process to hear. Coming off of the utterly perfect 'Secret Name,' the band released the OK-but-far-from-great 'Things We Lost in the Fire.' Sure, there were some great songs (the heavily Beatles influenced "Whore" for example), but there was a feeling of unease, and awkwardness. They'd stuck their necks out and tried to write poppier songs. I respect that, but didn't enjoy listening to it. Then 'Trust' came. I've heard it many times and have yet to enjoy it. This is Low at 13, just going through their most painful growing stage: cracking voices, pimpled faces and hormones raging. And now on their new album they've emerged full-chested and lean, brandishing newly polished hooks.
Enough has been written about the newer, aggressive vibe of this album, so I'm going to say this about it: it's certainly there, but this is absolutely not a rock album. It's just Low playing a little more loudly than usual. It's not even as drastic as Pedro the Lion's switch to rock on 'Control.'
Alan's songwriting has become much more used to the quickened pace, as is shown on songs like "Everybody's Song," "California," and "Walk Into the Sea." The first single, "Death of a Salesman" (named after the famous play, whose author coincidentally died the week of my writing this review) explores the overarching themes of disillusionment found on the album. Another standout track, "Silver Rider," was originally found on the stellar 'Murderer' 10" in slightly different form. However, the highlight of the album, "Pissing," is also Alan's biggest lyrical misstep. The album starts with a song whose main refrain includes the phrase "the monkey dies tonight," so when I say "biggest lyrical misstep" I do mean BIG. For whatever reason they included the line "pissing on my toes" in this song. The song itself is massive. It builds and collects its anger and aggression, carrying it along to through the vocal parts until Alan's guitar screeches out of the mix, releasing the pent up tension in a glorious, damaged and utterly psychedelic guitar onslaught. Not what you'd expect from Low, but certainly of the caliber I'd once expected from them.
Mixed opinions about this album abound (and I'll admit, it took me many listens to get past my prejudices and expectations). But, if you let go of your own rules for what Low is supposed to do, you will find a surprisingly promising album from a band just beginning to pull out of a serious nosedive. 7/10 -- Dick Baldwin (25 May, 2005)