Up from the chorus
Low's latest, Drums and Guns (preorder), drops on 3/20 and it strikes me as a bigger curve than their last album, The Great Destroyer. The "Low gets loud wtf?!" angle got played to death, so I won't revisit in detail, but suffice it to say that Great didn't vary much from what I see as their typical MO: a tightly controlled, isolated voice sparingly parcels out narratives and/or impressions while symbols abound and witness is borne. That the previous raised the volume around that central voice was not something to get curved about. It's still about the lonely singer (even if both Mimi and Alan are playing that game at the same time).
Ah, the sole wise voice, warbling to its fellows. Jesus H. There've only been a few times I've wanted to crack my own neck at a concert and two of them have come at Low shows pre-Great. These people played amplified instruments. They used microphones. Yet they didn't use this fabulous technology to even attempt to fill the room, causing the devotees to shush you if you gulped your beer too loudly. Now, I'm all for inclusiveness and the casting of a very wide net in terms of behavior, expression and fashion in my favorite musical art form, but know this: The shush has no place in rock n' roll and it never has. I suppose that the low-watt approach has worked for them on an artistic level. Over many years and albums, Low demanded such focus from their listener that it would be literally sacrosanct to sing along and ruin someone else's good time.
So it's not the synthetic drum noises and bleeps and bloops of Drums that surprise me (though this stuff is new). It's the fact that these are songs wouldn't fall apart if the audience sang along. They're working toward, hush now, some notion of inclusiveness. Maybe it's the handclaps, organ and the remnants of my Catholic upbringing, but "Breaker" sounds downright choral. That's a switch.
Breaker - Low