Low consistently do not get enough credit. I'm old enough to remember when this band's music got casually lumped in with that of Codeine and yet, even as the output of Low has progressed impressively, the praise the group deserves has not been forthcoming. It's safe to say that with the release of the outfit's new album, Double Negative, out on Sub Pop this Friday, the band is sure to earn high points for making something brave and challenging.
Opener "Quorum" is abrasive and sinister, the faint hum of everything slowly rotting from within, while the more accessible "Dancing And Blood" sees Alan Sparhawk, Mimi Parker, and Steve Garrington pursue a muse that's nearly neo-classical, the music austere and affecting. Elsewhere, "Fly" and "Always Up" succeed thanks to Parker's light touch, while the harsh "Tempest" bristles with ideas churned up into a murky stew. If Low here on Double Negative are doing anything it's deconstructing alt-rock.
What's left, after that deconstruction, are the pieces of richer music, re-arranged and assembled into new forms, the richness now that of being able to hear invention as it happens. At every point on this album where a listener feels a familiar mood creeping into things, Low throws a wrench into the mix, melodies and hooks scattering to the winds. "Always Trying To Work It Out" recalled, for me, the earliest stuff from His Name Is Alive, while the stark "The Son, The Sun" pulses with a kind of lovely beat, a faint throb of life. If so much of Double Negative is brutally uncompromising, there's some material here -- the methodical and loping "Rome (Always In The Dark)", the nearly-catchy "Disarray" -- that is easy to embrace, even for new fans of this band.
Triumphantly boundary-testing, Double Negative is a record that one's quick to admire and (very) nearly quick to love. Low are not content here, and there's no choice made on this release that was the safe or obvious one for these musicians. Double Negative takes a lot of risks and one can, at minimum, admire this band's chutzpah in releasing a record like this. Spin it twice and you're likely to love it too.
Double Negative will be out via Sub Pop this Friday.
[Photo: Shelly Mossman