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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Low
The Great Destroyer
Sub Pop Records

Rating: 9/10 ?


February 16, 2005
In 1972, Joel Grey breathed life into one of the greatest characters in musical theatre. His androgynous Master of Ceremonies, the scene-stealing star of Cabaret, is one of the most wicked, jovial and all around charismatic characters ever to be created. He won an Oscar for best Supporting Actor for his role, but he did so deservingly, carrying the audience's emotions through every sickening, delightful turn; he is darkly evil - undoubtedly proven by the play's end - and yet so very spirited and loved.

It may be hard to make the jump from Joel Grey to Low, but The Great Destroyer is a masterpiece of emotional tumult, the likes of which will have you, by the throat, at Wilkommen…

This is their piece of bubbling, sinister and beautiful debauchery, dramatic through and through. It is wholly troubling and uplifting and, like Cabaret, it gives you the choice between destruction and hope. Despite its title, I, for one, feel it moves towards hope.

Beginning with "Monkey," we are treated to a booming intro, alien but tribal, which sets up for the theatrical melodrama about to ensue. Somehow, the whispers take on their often-baleful, often-saving qualities, inducing a shiver. It feels like an abduction, like being seized. Slow but overwhelming, the track stunts all movement, stopping you in your tracks and demanding all of your attention. As you are enveloped by the unknown yet-to-come, you'll likely realize that this is the way to start an album.

The standout, "California," is next, and contrasts with "Monkey" greatly. It's immediately optimistic and poppy, and surprisingly light and accessible for Low - it's almost jangly in a way, a little like a vintage Matthew Sweet song on downers and alcohol. With its wonderfully bright electric guitar parts, it makes up for any lost time: awakened, it presents an all new Low, found high.

Next, "Everybody's Song" features fantastic, dense guitar lines, conjuring gauzy reveries of a dreamy Cranberries number with skewed passions. We are treated to Low through dark, loud folk influences - recreating the intro's buzzing abduction, surrounded by discomfort and a lifting feeling.

This feels like a new Low, in a way, a culmination of all of their varying dramatic volume over the years. While tracks like "Silver Rider" and "Pissing" sound like classic Low by way of Secret Name and Curtain Hits the Cast, their return-to-form has been enchanted by visions of new avenues, adventurism and even optimism. While they were always semi-contented in their sound, doing what they do very well, The Great Destroyer sounds sweeter and more carefree, unbound from any restraints. A burden has been lifted, and it is that of silence. Likewise, you can tell it's a Low record, but not by the tone or volume - this is, at least, the album I, as a fan, had been holding out hope for.

Teasing us between poppy tones ("Just Stand Back") and darker, reverberating dream pop a la This Mortal Coil ("On the Edge Of"), their vision is grand and laudable, to be admired from every angle. More cuts on The Great Destroyer move to a stirring rock crescendo, and the build-up and subsequent release help us all to feel freed. When the slow, folky lullaby, "When I Go Deaf" moves toward wall-rattling, epic squalling, we know we've reached a mark where 'dynamic' is the only way to get the point across. No more is quiet the new loud; for Low, loud is the new quiet. Simmering subtlety gets traded for emotional liberation, and it feels good: Cathartic. Conscious and visible. They've called out the elephant in the room.

"Death of a Salesman" moves to silence and reservation, making amends and accord with their past in inevitable agreement, but the closer, "Walk Into the Sea," proves that Low has ushered in a new era. It is one of their most perfect tracks, and a brilliant cap on the album. Staccato, dramatic and determined, its churning, bright sentiment marks an upswing. There is resolution found in The Great Destroyer, which makes its end statement sound like a grateful hymn. The album has been absurd and stormy, reveling in clatter and sharp, drastic turns, but we are left with a note of health and well-being.

As in Cabaret, the dramatic makes its audience reflect on the realistic - to feel honest emotion, to be moved and to dissect personal choices. Unlike its theatrical counterpart, which turns inward to the evils of mercilessness, Low's twist of fate comes when, in the end, we choose redemption. One can see from The Great Destroyer, they look beautiful in the light.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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