The Great Destroyer (Sub Pop)
Reviewed by Erick Mertz
On the liner notes to Low's album The Great Destroyer, there is a message that begins "What began in our living room in Duluth..." that goes on to, in seemingly harmless language, credit the album's producers and mixers. In most albums, this isn't a cryptic line worthy of decoding; in most instances, this is a throw away, overlooked by all but the most fervent seekers of story line.
But for the band Low this line is loaded, upping the ante of imagination. A dozen years into their recording career, there is an itchy, twitchy sensation in the rarified air around these masters who never seem to be looking at the world in the same shutter speed as their audience. This line seems to beg the listener - at least it begs this listener - to ask the very deep question: what is embryonic in my own intimate spaces that I can bring to them, hopeful of informing their quest for emotional empire?
As interesting and complex as Low's approach to recording and songwriting might be on The Great Destroyer, they never stray too far from their nexus of strong, tried and true rock principles. The album's opener is "Monkey," a heavy four-minute warm-up so densely layered with distorted keyboards and percussion the guitars feel almost lost. The boy/girl vocal interplay between Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker never tires; rather a la Yo La Tengo it forms the delightfully harmonious backdrop to some of the album's best songs like "Just Stand Back" and "Silver Rider." "On The Edge" draws the rough sketch of a western skyline over downbeat, sonic throng while "When I Go Deaf" is straight barroom balladry, last song of the night style.
That is, until it all comes crashing down, in a relentless, yet still pretty, mess.
Low is the modern rock band seemingly perfectly at ease with how serious they sound at work. It might sound like an improbable trick to turn successfully, but Low makes their brand of meticulously crafted songwriting enjoyable, a feat they pull off without once sounding trite.
What spawned from the aforementioned Duluth living room I cannot be sure, but that small town in the upper mid west is a destination for indie rock pilgrimage as a result.
© 2005 - Erick Mertz