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Low | The Great Destroyer (Rough Trade)
Perhaps it's for the best that I'd heard nothing of Dave Fridmann's role at the production helm of Low's latest when the stark promotional copy first arrived, as it might have brought about undue concern. Since then I've had lent this record to more people than anything else in memory, and the same overwhelmingly positive response has followed suit; and this from people who adore their work as much as I. However, I'm told that the reaction in some quarters has been lukewarm, which beggars belief; I can only assume that it's from people who simply seek to adopt a standpoint and stick rigidly to it. In fact, 'The Great Destroyer' is nothing short of remarkable - I'd go so far as to say that it's arguably Low's finest work to date, and undoubtedly a massive progression for them.

While critics may argue that they've left behind their trademark sound, that's missing the point somewhat; this is unmistakably Low, and the production is just as 'low-fi' as ever - it's just the 'full band' sound that's different. The songs are more accessible, you could say, but it's not as though there's any great departure in approach or in structure from what we're accustomed to. I've sometimes argued that if a rock or pop song could translate into a stripped-down, acoustic version, then that's the mark of a good/great song - so, conversely, should it not follow suit that the fragile, understated Low signature could be 'amped up' (if you will)?

Their songcraft has always been immaculate, and that's the most accurate way I can describe the 'diversion' that Low have taken with this album. For a band who've been prolific in releasing music for over a decade to emerge with a body of work as awesome as this is staggering, and it truly marks them out as one of the most essential bands of our time. As Adrian Pannett stated in the last issue of CwaS, it's hard to imagine an American alternative rock landscape without them, and, against the odds, it's more than likely they'll appeal to a wider audience than ever before with an album that improves with every listen. The first absolutely essential purchase of 2005.

Andy Slocombe
February-April 2005