I should say, right up front, that I think C'mon by Low is one of the strongest releases of the year. I could almost say that it's the album to beat for album of the year, and it's not even June yet. Just so you know where I'm coming from. After the release of Drums and Guns in 2007, an album that examined the nature of the American character in a post-9/11 world, which was more noisy than melodious, the band had some time off as Alan Sparhawke focused his attention on the offshoot band, The Retribution Gospel Choir, where he really allows himself to rock out.
C'mon (released 4/12/11 on Sub Pop) goes back to The Great Destroyer and moves forward from there. As the band continues to evolve, they've become more forceful and musically dynamic, building powerful songs that edge closer to flat out rock and roll than they've ever been before. Yet they are still Low, and build their songs layer by layer, until now, they keep on building until they become the towering structures you hear on C'mon.
Since forming in 1993, the band Low have had a career that built a fan base slowly and steadily over many years. They go through periods of general acceptance, playing larger theatres and then redouble their musical efforts to push the envelope a little farther and their audience scales back to where they only play smaller venues like The Troubadour or Spaceland.
Unaware of the band during their first decade, while they were forging their style that some call "Slowcore", taking simple elements and slowly building them into gorgeous songs, I first jumped on their bandwagon, when I saw a music video for "Monkey" in February 2006. I was just becoming familiar with the burgeoning rock and roll scene around me, and at first I was alone in this desert with only music videos, that almost no one would play, except for one hour a week on Fuse TV, or the long departed public access show "Refused TV" to guide me. They played lots of local bands along with national acts (sometimes too much metal) but were it not for that public access show I might have continued in ignorance of the current music scene. Knowing almost no one into music, I was left to my own devices and that was how I learned. I still have many videotapes of these shows from 2005 and 2006.
The Great Destroyer had been out since January, 2005 so I bought a copy, was instantly enamoured, and got a ticket to see them at The Troubadour on March 3, 2006, on my second trip ever to that historic venue. It was a great show and I remembered being impressed I could get that close to such a landmark band. I made sure to say hello to Mimi Parker at the merch table, but all I could babble was, "That was beautiful".
C'mon begins with the smashingly beautiful song "Try To Sleep" which is so alluring it pulls you instantly into the album. Alan's twangy and slightly nasal delivery is always smoothed over and anchored by Mimi's steady, soothing presence with that startling vibrato, kind of like a quiet Grace Slick. Mimi gets lead vocal duties on a few songs including "You See Everything" about a truth seeking and pure souled individual, and "Especially Me". This song has the wonderful refrain, "some songs feel like butter, some songs sound like cake", and this song feels like butter to me.
I feel very lucky to have gotten a ticket to see the Xmas tour show they did at Spaceland (as it was becoming The Satellite) back on December 15, 2010, where they performed the entire album for us. After pummelling the audience into submission with "Monkey" and the gorgeous "Silver Rider" they played a few Christmas songs, then launched into the album, C'mon. Actually I reviewed this show at Feed Your Head.
On that very first hearing I could tell this was something special, and the longtime Low fans attended with agreed. You could tell how proud they all were (they appeared as a band of five that night) as they played song after song and basked in the thunderous ovation given each composition. It was a marvelous night.
I remember being particularly impressed with "Witches", a beautifully constructed sort of confessional from Alan from the perspective of a young child afraid of the demons under the bed. "Nothing But Heart" is a song I could go on and on about. Maybe my favorite song of the year. This eight minute song builds slowly, quietly, but insistently applying layer upon layer until it reaches a crescendo of such aching beauty I dissolved into tears the first few times I played it. It reminds me so much of other anthemic touchstones like John Lennon's "Give Peace A Chance" or George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord". It's a stunning song and when there are suddenly three voices (Steve Garrington is singing now, I believe, in addition to playing bass) singing three parts, and Alan's guitar is wailing away, I melt. They really hit a career peak with this song and I'll be enjoying this for years.
In true Low fashion some of the songs repel at the same time as attracting you. I think of "Majesty/Magic" this way, which grows into a giant, cacophonous wall of sound. Others are quiet lullabies like "Nightingale". They cover the whole gamut of sound and emotion. I already have my ticket to see Low at El Rey on September 20, which shows the faith Sup Pop has in this band, as C'mon should raise this band's profile considerably.