Heard Here


Give Low 30 seconds and they’ll put you to sleep, but give them 3 minutes and they’ll blow your mind. Like a summer afternoon thunderstorm, Low’s songs build fearfully slowly, collecting energy, before they either peter out without a drop or explode into a drenching cascade. The trio, comprised of the husband and wife team of vocalist/guitarist Alan Sparhawk and vocalist/drummer Mimi Parker, along with bassist Zak Sally, have made a career out of not playing their instruments. Most, and often the best, Low songs are studies in minimalism — the vacancies left between a strummed guitar chord and a haunting vibrato.
But thankfully, Low always rewards your patience, and Trust, their sixth LP, is no exception. Steve Albini’s strictly no-frills production on 2001’s brilliant Things We Lost in the Fire has been traded in favor of a fuller, more atmospheric sound. Mixed by Tchad Blake (Pearl Jam, Latin Playboys), Trust bristles with twinkling piano, multi-tracked harmonies, backwards guitar, banjos, found noises and the near constant hum of reverb. Sparhawk’s guitar is as rich as ever, and Parker’s hypnotically ominous percussion sounds like the coming of the apocalypse. Whereas most of last year’s album felt like it was recorded in a bedroom, Trust could have been made in a cathedral with the amps booming from the alter and the mics hanging from the rafters.
Not surprisingly, then, Low’s new album is full of religious imagery. While the last album dealt with the minutia of human relationships, tracks like the opener “(That’s How You Sing) Amazing Grace” asks “Oh, can you hear that sweet, sweet sound?/ Yeah, I was lost, but now am found/ Sometimes there’s nothing left to say/ That’s how you sing Amazing Grace.” Not since 1999’s Christmas album, has Low been that explicit about their Mormon heritage.
Though “I Am the Lamb” is about as frank a discussion of Christ’s crucifixion as you’ll get in a rock song, Low are never preachy. Whether they’re dealing with spirituality (“Little Argument With Myself”), rage (“John Prine”), or loss (“In the Drugs”), their songs are always primarily personal statements. But even if you aren’t paying attention to what they’re saying, Sparhawk’s and Parker’s exquisitely fragile harmonies are escapist enough in their own right. And not one to rest on their trademark sound, Low proves with the dense “Canada” and the festive “Snowstorm” that marriage is no obstacle to rocking hard.
With nearly a decade of making music under their belt, this Duluth, Minn., trio still manages to be accessible without sacrificing an iota of their integrity. Low is minimalism without pretense, originality without artifice, and intensity without equal. Indie rock doesn’t get much better than this.

—John Macdonald

Detachment Kit
They Raging. Quiet Army.

Call it what you will — derivative post-punk, neo-emo, cacophonous hard rock — but the debut CD by The Starter Foundation’s Detachment Kit is a 40 minute experience of pure and glorious rock ‘n’ roll.
The 50 or so folks gathered at the Rye Coalition/Detachment Kit show this July were expecting something intense. The Rye Coalition has a reputation for putting on energetic and emotional shows, driving hard with intense rock beats and adding their own take on traditional rhythm and blues.
Most of the assembled indie-rock fans were probably unaware of the Detachment Kit. Formed in 1998 in Chicago, the band just released their first LP, and didn’t foretell the show to come in their gracious and humble tone. Thanking the assembled fans for coming to seem them when the legendary Guided by Voices were playing for free nearby, the Detachment Kit at first seemed like humble performers. But their true power came out once they began to play. Knocking over amps and confronting the audience with screams, the group strove to make their show as interactive as possible difficulties with their equipment. Their first album does the same, as it displays their raw rock sound, complete with screams and screeching guitars.
Detachment Kit’s style ranges from short, loud and fast numbers to more melodic pieces, building-up from a simplistic guitar riff to an intense emotional scream, challenging the listener to become active in his experience. This variance in style reflects the band’s eclectic influences, as they pay homage to everyone from Weezer to Devo to the Dismemberment Plan in their creative choices. The band’s ability to string together slow-building melodic pieces is particularly unusual since many current indie bands, such as the White Stripes and the Hives, are content to play radio friendly two to three minute pieces, leaving the more stylistic pieces to bands whose radio days are far off. This album deserves to be listened to in its entirety, and the listener should try to dance and throw himself around as much as possible to add to the experience. If nothing else, the Detachment Kit may make cynical indie-rockers raise their trucker hats in respect, or at least lower their black-rimmed glasses in appreciative disbelief.

–Cedric Severino

The Queens of the Stone Age
Songs for the Deaf

The Queens of the Stone Age really want you to listen to this cranked up to 11 in a drag race through the desert high on carpet cleaner fumes. The cool vintage car inside art and the revved engine sounds at the beginning give you that much, but ultimately they only deliver about two-thirds of the time. Dave Grohl on drums, complete with a porn actor moustache, gives you the sense that this band is capable of being a lot more sleazy than it actually is.
The weak link is really the vocals, a weird melding of Blue Oyster Cult and Stone Temple Pilots that doesn’t kick enough to go along with the fuzzy shred of the guitars. This band would probably sound great live, but something is missing in the recorded version (the loss of “aura” in favor of reproducibility as Walter Benjamin would say).
The first track, “You Think I Ain’t Worth a Dollar, but I Feel Like a Millionaire” is probably the best, leading off with a great radio station ID parody — “KLON- Clone radio. We play the songs that sound more like everyone else than anyone else”— then kicking into 70’s guitar overdrive and dueling harmony. The guitars are where most of this album’s bite comes from, along with the witty radio parodies throughout—“KRDL- Curdle Radio. We spoil music for everyone.” Other highlights include “Song for the Dead” and “Gonna Leave You” which incorporates a variety of instruments including keys, strings, and synths, a nice addition to the heaviness of the whole thing. Also cool is the nod to ‘60s surf/psychedelia on “Another Love Song,” a contrast to the ‘70s fuzz of the rest of the album. But there is something that keeps this from being a great album; it could be the over-produced vocals or the unevenness of the songs: formulaic but rocking at the beginning, then lagging in the middle and more diverse but less rocking at the end. As the current archetypal “stoner rock” band you expect a little more Sabbath and a little less STP.

—Derek Schleelein

September 27
October 4

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