Uncommon music criticized by the common man. (Or, exercises in futility masquerading as critical thought.)

Friday, February 04, 2005

First: Slint is coming to the 9:30 Club. This I won't miss. I missed Mission of Burma, I missed the Pixies, but I won't miss this. Though, I must say, I'm driven more by curiosity than I am nostalgia (I didn't discover Slint for myself until well after they had disbanded).

Now then...

The Great Destroyer
Sub Pop - 2005

Duluth. Mormon. "Slowcore." Quiet. Sad.

There, I got all of the popular words that creep up in the various Madlib-style Low reviews out of my system.

So what of the new album? Well, as I've said previously, it's different. Very different. Not sprouting legs overnight and crawling out of the primordial soup different, but enough to notice without really searching. There's guitar crunch, there's nearly sunny pop tunes, there's even an overproduced, unnatural to the point of sounding almost electronic song. But the bottom line is that, at the end of the day, these are good songs, something Low has always done as good as anybody else.

The album starts off somewhat awkwardly with "Monkey", which is the unnatural sounding song mentioned a few sentences back. The song rumbles and builds a good amount of tension, thanks largely to an ominous and surprisingly booming rhythm, but never really gets off the ground. But just as you're settling in for some musical thunder, Low clear the skies and throw things into pop gear with "California." A long way from chilly Minnesota indeed. What often gets lost when people talk of Low's music is their ability to write a hook. This isn't entirely unexpected, as their previous output often moves sleepily along, seeping into your mind more than it grabs you by the throat. Here, however, they have crafted a bouncy little pop tune that would represent the titular state well. The proceedings stumble once more with the next track, the thin, distorted "Everybody's Song" whose "aggression" seems a bit forced. But this is, in my mind, the album's last misstep, as the rest of the disc is populated by strong songs. You get classic Low songs like "Silver Rider" or the stirring "Cue the Strings", the gorgeous near-country ballad (that eventually becomes a fuzzy rocker) "When I Go Deaf", or the almost Spector-ian pop rock of the album closing "Walk Into the Sea."

It's a shame that some of Low's fans might take issue with this album because of the chances it takes. (Read: how much it doesn't sound like the Low they know and love.) They really shouldn't. Low has never steered them wrong before, and even though The Great Destroyer isn't a world-beater or reach the dizzying heights of some of Low's previous (I'm thinking Things We Lost in the Fire here) work, it's another confident step forward in their stellar career, one their fans should be willing to take with them. This album does anything but disappoint.`