Low - C'mon

by Steve Rhodes Rating:8 Release Date:2011-04-11

Duluth's Low have developed a reputation since their beginnings in the early 90s for slow-paced, guitar-led, minimalist songs, of a famously hushed volume. (Woe betide any 'talkers' at their gigs). However, in recent times they have occasionally broken away from this successful formula, cranking up the volume on occasion, particularly on Alan Sparhawk's guitar.

Four years have passed since Drums and Guns, a dark and more intense album than anything Low had previously produced, which spoke of anger and strong political undertones. It's perhaps surprising then that their new album C'mon opens with such a departure of 'Try to Sleep'. It is a breezy, cheery and summery mid-paced song, that contrasts with their most recent output. It is a pleasant start, but bar added glockenspiel, does not really add anything new. 'Done' follows this template, a slower, lullaby-esque number with quiet strumming and added slide-guitar, but it is rather uninspired and is probably the weak point of the album.

There is still some anger on C'mon, particularly on the excellent 'Witches', where Alan's restrained but heavier guitar riffs supplement his strong, critical vocal: "All you guys out there trying to act like Al Green, you're all weak". As with previous releases, it is the interplay and perfect harmomising between Alan and Mimi's vocals that forms the centrepoint, such as on the building and traditional '$20' and the brooding 'Majesty/Magic'. The latter, while maintaining a pedestrian pace, is triumphant and pulsing, featuring a guitar that threatens to break into cacophony and an almost trance or chant-like dual repeated vocal of "Oh, majesty" from Alan and Mimi.

There is further development of Low's sound with repeater guitar electronics on 'Especially Me', building on the sound started on Drums and Guns tracks 'Breaker' and 'Belarus', and a tinge of calypso and echo on the equally sad and optimistic 'Nightingale'. The main strength of the album though lies in the two songs that Mimi leads. Previous releases often pushed Mimi's beautiful vocal onto quieter numbers, often adding a vulnerability to Low's songs. The melancholic 'Especially Me' and the serene 'You See Everything', while contrasting songs, both push Mimi's confident and soulful vocals to the fore, and are a great development on the past and as good as anything Low have done in recent years.

Left to conclude the album, 'Something Turning Over' is a nice oddity. With a hint of The Lemonheads, it is a campfire singsong or hymn that seems to play safe and treats the listener to a happy ending. The lyrics though completely contrast with the mood. ''Every now and then I hear them breathing, moving through the room so quietly, just because you never hear their voices, don't mean they won't kill you in your sleep". It is a great closer.

While there are not exactly any wholesale changes or major leaps from their previous eight albums, with C'mon Low have subtly developed their sound and produced a consistently strong album that adds weight to their already excellent back catalogue. Though its doubtful that C'mon will propel Low into the mainstream, just the title alone demands the album to be checked out, one that will reward the listener.

C'mon!

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