Low - C'Mon Album Review
The BPM of Low's once glacier-paced sLowcore may have sped up in the 17 years since their debút 'I Could Live In Hope' but the speed of their output has slowed with time; 'C'Mon' is the Duluth, USA three-pieces' first album since 2007's 'Drums & Guns' (albeit with two albums from Retribution Gospel Choir, side project of vocalist Alan Sparhawk's, to bridge the gap). Many believed 'Drums & Guns' was the bands weakest album to date, and one that substituted the bands naked beauty for studio trickery, and whilst 'C'mon' is an improvement on its predecessor,and a very strong album in its own right, it falls quite a long way short of the bands high points.
True, only a handful of albums written in the twenty years since married Mormon couple and co-songwriters/vocalists Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker formed Low have come close to the solemn genius of 'Trust' and 'Things We Lost In The Fire', and it may be unfair to judge 'C'mon' in the shadow of past releases, but what would be a game-raiser for 99.9% of artists is a disappointment in the context of Low's staggering back-catalogue.
Sonically it sits somewhere between 'Drums & Guns' and 2002's 'The Great Destroyer', with the sparse, barely-there sound of earlier albums again replaced by meandering guitar leads soaked in crisp distortion that dance around Mimi's driving rhythms, which themselves are more prominent than ever.
C'Mon does have its highlights, the brightest of which is 'Especially Me'. The five minute plus builds on multi-layered vocals and waves of mourning strings before falling into a typically spine-tingling breakdown which may be Low's most cinematic moment to date. Yet for all the panning and crystaline production the emotion is as naked as ever, and like 'Dragonfly' from 'Drums & Guns' it is a song that is just as haunting, if not moreso, when stripped to its bare bones.
Later, the late-night vibe of 'Nightingale' is a surprising detour. Although the majority of Low's material is wrought with weary eyed sorrow the track is the bands first real delve into blues territory, and it is one that is highly enjoyable. Alan's trembling six-string soliloquies bounce retreat under spring reverb in the manner of their earliest material, but the overall result is something much more direct and decipherable.
The simplistic sing-along 'Something's Turning Over', C'mons' equivalent of 'Death Of A Salesman', closes the album off nicely but between it and the previously mentioned tracks there is a disappointing amount of filler for a Low full-length, with 'Majesty/Magic' and 'Nothing But Heart' amongst some of the bands least effecting material since their conception.
Whilst still being unmistakably a Low album it is their first to not offer a cohesive sound, with several tracks feeling out of place after what has preceded them. Perhaps it is that Low have raised the bar too high and are at long last experiencing human decline, as whilst 'Cmon' is far from a poor album it is one that sees the band fall far short of their best form.