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Low - The Great Destroyer

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Artist: Low

Album: The Great Destroyer

Label: Sub Pop

Review date: Jan. 17, 2005

Remember Low? In ’94 and ’95, when slack-jawed loser pathos and chunky distortion ruled the airwaves, Low was something special. Gentle, pristine vocals floated over minimal, half-speed dirges. The songs weren’t simply bummed about current circumstances – they were pervasively haunted by alternate possibilities, which make the day’s drudgery all the more humiliating, don’t you know. I Could Live In Hope, Long Division and The Curtain Hits The Cast seeped into ’90s college radio like half-frozen raindrops into desert sand. Low collaborated with Black Heart Procession and opened for the likes of Swans. My mom still cherishes the Christmas album.

And now, it’s happened. Low has dropped a straight-up guitar-pop record. Let’s not say we didn’t see it coming. The mighty Trust, from earlier this century, ran up quite a debt to Neil Young, and now stands as an intersection between what Minnesota’s moodiest li’l Mormons were and what they’ve, as of The Great Destroyer, become.

When the long-haul fans (the ones who shush you at the shows) call this "the new Low," they might mean it in two ways. I don't think either will continue to apply after awhile. The Great Destroyer extends an olive branch to the sour-bubblegum post-punk that Low so effortlessly transcended a decade ago, but it's got the same old time-release charm. It’s as if Low rummaged the 99-cent used bin on its way through Valdese, North Carolina, and finally got to know its erstwhile contemporaries. “Everybody’s Song” features the melodic discipline, barely contained anguish and cryptic lyrical finger-wagging that marked the last few Posies records. “Just Stand Back” (“I’m gonna turn on you so fast”) is a hateful little bon-bon that could stand tall on a Sugar record. And yet, The Great Destroyer remains too rickety and pristine to be anyone’s baby but Low’s.

Of course, Low doesn’t take cues from Ken Stringfellow or Bob Mould or anyone but the baddest motherfuckin’ Jewish carpenter of them all, y’all. I’m talking about Jesus, and for the first time, Low is, too. “When I Go Deaf,” takes a folksy, Drakeian retreat from the fuzz before falling back into it mid-song. Lyrically, it’s conjecture about the state of affairs in heaven. "We will make love / We won’t have to fight / Won’t have to speak / Won’t have to write / And I’ll stop writing songs / Stop scratching out lines / Won’t have to think / Won’t have to rhyme." Wherever this band ends up after death, that much will be the survivors' loss.

By Emerson Dameron

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