If you’ve been following closely along the careerpath of Low, you might have noticed that around 2005 the band turned it up a bit with The Great Destroyer, then forging further ahead with Drums & Guns. Why does the diveregence of a great minimalist band such as Low matter here? Well, this is Alan Sparhawks band, and the only difference between this and Low is the absence of his wife Mimi in exchange for drummer Eric Pollard. All this leads to one thing, 2, the second proper Retribution Gospel Choir album, is a further illustration that despite the solitude of old Low records, Alan seems to have always wanted to rock.
“Hide It Away” builds from the minute you press play on your stereo, with Pollard’s drums lying in the background, providing a steady, if not powerful, backbone for the song. Of course, Sparhawk’s vocals soar in the foreground, with just the faintest hint of waivering.
If you didn’t believe he had this need for rock building in him for a long time, just check the forty second long “68 Comeback,” which begins with a bit of an homage to Black Sabbath (Paranoid?). This jumps right into the arena rocking moment that is “Workin Hard.” The chugging guitars and stomping drum sound all feel as if this was destined to fill out a large arena, yet somehow Sparhawk makes it feel rather intimate; a specialty he places here and there in his entire catalogue.
Still, you can feel the presence of his past workings throughout the record. Take “Poor Man’s Daughter,” for instance; it’s a song that feels an awful lot like 90s College Radio Rock, yet there is a certain depth that all Low records have that is present here too. There are also little mini-suites like the previously mentioned “68 Comeback” that show the group using ambient moments to influence to overall atmosphere of the record.
Personally, “White Wolf” is definitely a favorite number on 2. It sort of begins with a J. Mascis type riff, which brings back the whole classic alternative rock appeal that is present here, and when the chorus kicks in you just can’t help but feel elated. It gets straight to the point, and just hits you all the way through. Then it ends. This remains one of the most pleasant things about this album; the brevity of the songs allows for ultimate enjoyment. A lof of current guitar albums get a bit too over-indulgent (I’m looking at you metalheads), choosing to hear themselve, and their “chops,” more than craft the perfect song. Here, there is no such thing (if you get rid of one song, but don’t because it’s good). It makes for a precise rock album, one that fulfills without wasting too much time.
Alan Sparhawk has always been able to craft great songs, and this time he shows that he can do so by turning up the amps, and cranking out the energy. If you love Low, as I do, then you’ll surely find that 2 and Retribution Gospel Choir are perfectly suited for you.
Download: Retribution Gospel Choir – White Wolf [MP3]