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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark wonder from Low..., 14 April 2007
Jason Parkes "We're all Frankies'" (Worcester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Drums And Guns (Audio CD)
'Drums and Guns' is darker than predecessor 'The Great Destroyer' (2005), the band since shedding a bassist, Alan Sparhawk appearing to have a breakdown (though was going on tour with Mark Kozelek really the best way to get over it?), while the current zeitgeist of war and terror appears overwhelming...

Last year saw the band performing 'Things We Lost in the Fire' in order at Don't Look Back, though the surrounding tour (in suppport of the 'Monkey' e.p.) saw the band play a set that was prmarily composed of material destined for Drums and Guns alongside much of The Great Destroyer (with a couple of tracks from 'Trust' and 'Things We Lost in the Fire' and nothing before it). The audience was quite raucous in Birmingham, Sparhawk appeared to reject the earlier tracks people were asking for and playing songs like 'Murderer' instead. I'm pretty sure that 'Dragonfly', 'Sandinsta' and 'Pretty People' were played that night...

'Drums and Guns' is quite different to 'The Great Destroyer', the latter was very guitar heavy, while this album appears to take its cue from the b-side version of 'I Remember' (see the box-set) which employed electronics and synths. The songs are generally brief and to the point, the grim album is just over 40 minutes, like some earlier Low material, I'm not sure how much more I could have taken...

'Pretty People' has similar feedback to David Sylvian's 'Blemish' as Sparhawk sings "All the soldiers...are all gonna die/All the little babies...are all gonna die/All the poets and all the liars and all you pretty people...are all gonna die." The missing link between the Blues and 'Metal Machine Music' is located as Mimi Parker offers a typically Velvets-style drumbeat. 'Belarus' is quite close to the electronic climes of Thom Yorke, perhaps the loss of Zak S. on bass lead the band to recording in a less conventional three piece way?

'Breaker' feels a bit like baader meinhof's 'Kill Ramirez', though with a minimal droning keyboard that recalls Suicide - strangely this very bleak material is quite catchy and poppy. These songs won't stop drifting around your head once heard - "...the blood just spills and spills/and here we sit debating Math...It's just the shame/My hand just kills and kills/There's got to be an end to that..." again typifies the dark feel. Maybe too much war on TV. The Neo-Con disease and the US at its lowest point since Nixon, maybe even worse off, though seemingly oblivious. "There's got to be an end to that..." - these songs could keep you up all night...

The rest of the album is as great, from the minimal piece 'Your Poison', to the blend of typical Low minimalism and a kind of trip-hop/industrial beat on 'Dragonfly', and my favourite, the brief and beautiful 'Sandinista.' This song holds its own with any of the revered Low material of yore - the allusion to the Sandnistas in Central America one that points to US foreign policy of the past, and similarly to now. Alan and Mimi's harmony vocals sound wonderful here, "Oh Sandinista...Oh Sandinista...Oh Sandinista take my side..." Then there's 'Always Fade', which sounds like a cross between hip-hop, Low and The Sisters of Mercy; and then the darkest closing tracks 'Murderer' and 'Violent Past.' The long day's journey into night...

'Drums and Guns' lyrically is everything the new Arcade Fire album isn't. I guess the emphasis on the state of things and a husband/wife element to the band shows some similarities, but where Win Butler and co come across as a slightly pious Waterboys/Grant Lee Buffalo preaching to the converted, Low here seem to have doubt. 'Drums and Guns' reflects this dark era, taking Low into unexpected sonic climes and a definite highlight of 2007. This is one album that I can't stop playing, despite "the screams/the clutching of breaths..." A dark wonder from Low...
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Dark Gem, 22 Jun 2007
D. Newton (Swindon, Wilts) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Drums And Guns (Audio CD)
Low's career spans about 15 years to date but they remain one of America's most consistently interesting and engaging `underground' rock groups. This feat is achieved in no small part due to their willingness and ability to vary their style and approach whilst remaining faithful to their overall musical vision.

`Drums and Guns' is no exception: significantly different from its predecessor `The Great Destroyer' (which was in itself a marked change from `Trust'); you will find no loud, brash guitar work here.

The mood of the album is resolutely downbeat, the songs are mostly dark and moody and the band use a greater degree of drum programming than ever before; sparse, scratchy beats underpin the organ-driven`Breaker', the heavy bass of `Always Fade' and underly Mimi's clear vocals on `Belarus'.

Distorted guitars and a semi-industrial beat mark `Dragonfly's' lament to drug addiction, whilst the magnificent closing track, `Violent Past', stuns with great slabs of layered distorted guitar noise, powerful yet melodic at the same time.

Lyrically, the record is exceptionally mature. There is anger and pain in the songs but Low are careful to avoid didacticism. `Blood spills and spills/but here we sit debating math' (Breaker) and `where would you go if the gun fell in your hand? (Sandinista) are two good examples.

It is an exaggeration to say that `Drums and Guns' is Low's best album; I am not convinced that there is a stone-cold classic track here (with the possible exception of `Violent Past'), but viewed as a whole it is a dense, challenging and extremely intelligent record which cements Low's status as one of the most vital bands in the world today.
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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best album of 2007, 14 Mar 2007
MRSCRY (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Drums And Guns (Audio CD)
Okay, I was a huge fan of Low turning up the tempo and rockin' out a bit on their last album, "The Great Destroyer", but these guys (and gal) have done so much better on their latest effort, which slows things down again. Ironically, this album needs to be turned on high volume more than the last one, because its haunting, modest background effects create a mood that won't be topped by any band this year. Alan Sparhawk's vocals, which are in top form, are complemented beautifully by a wide range of electronic noises ranging from eerie electric guitar to organ chords to electronic clapping. And, unlike most albums that come out these days, the record has a continuous feel to it... when done listening, it's harder to point a finger at a single track than it is the whole listening experience. However, if one is to highlight a song that stands out, it might very well be the final track, "Violent Past", which isn't a climax to "Drums and Guns" as much as it is a song that leaves me wanting to go back and examine the past 45 minutes.

And for those "Great Destroyer" fans who are wanting some sort of rock song on this record, the only satisfaction you'll get in this department is a quiet, goregous guitar riff on "Hatchet", a song that uses the inter-band relationships of the Beatles and Rolling Stones as a metaphor for a personal relationship.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Low's best yet, 13 May 2007
This review is from: Drums And Guns (Audio CD)
After long and careful consideration, not to mention listening to little else for the last month, I reckon this is Low's best album yet. It's not so much that they've gone back to slow and quiet, though it's undoubtedly less rocky than the rather disjointed and uncertain Great Destroyer, as that they've rediscovered the extraordinary atmospherics of their earlier work on Curtain Hits the Cast, Things We Lost and Trust. I suspect Mimi Parker's played a bigger role in this release, having spent some time on her own personal maternal "side-project" in the last few years. I'm sure the kids aren't being neglected, but her gorgeous harmonies and subtle drumming are much more to the fore. We're not yet getting her own amazing songs alongside her hubby's, to match In Metal or Embrace or The Plan, but maybe when the youngest goes to school...

A bit of detail on the songs, to add to Jason Parkes customarily excellent review above. Belarus is a gorgeous, contemplative, loop-synth meditation on... well, I'm not too sure. Dragonfly is about the fragility of life, and the vanities of modern medicine (I think). Dust on the Window is a lovely Mimi number. But the real blast comes with the last four songs - each one an assured masterpiece. Take Your Time is the nearest the album comes to anthemic, but for me the real standout track is Murderer, which manages to combine all of Sparhawk's lyrical preoccupations (his troubled relationship with his God, violence and war and all of our complicity in it, the sheer bloody complexity of people)with a building menace in the music.

If you can, try to catch a live Low show. I've seen every tour in the last 5 or 6 years, and the Shepherds Bush Empire date the other night was the best so far, including most of this album, lots of obscure old favourites (Lust from Curtain, for example, and several from Secret Name) and fantastic versions of acknowledged masterpieces, which (unlike once or twice in recent years) the band treated with the respect they deserve. They finished with an extraordinary Amazing Grace, which somehow managed to improve on the Trust version. They've obviously had their own troubles in recent times, but they seem to have come through the worst of it - Sparhawk in particular is quieter and less brash, perhaps because of his reported breakdown, but all the more profound and expressive for it.

Go see! Go buy! Go Low!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Someone to do your dirty work..........", 12 April 2007
Kevin Clarke "kevin17566" (Birmingham UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Drums And Guns (Audio CD)
Low have been on a run of brilliant albums since 2001's 'Things We Lost In The Fire', culminating in their stunning set from 2005, 'The Great Destroyer.' 'Drums And Guns' is clearly a conscious attempt to move away from both the beautiful atmospherics of the former and the all-out aural assault of the latter.

The first thing that shocks is the brevity of the songs. Hardly anything exceeds four minutes and this from a band known for the long, langorous unfurling of tracks. The second surprise is the lack of guitars. Drum machines, handclaps, distorted electronic noise, piano, organ.......these are the sounds of the new Low.

The familiar elliptical, opaque lyrics are still in place, although song titles like 'Sandinista', 'Belarus' and 'Murderer' hint at a political agenda. Earnest hectoring, or easy explanation, is not the band's style but in its own quiet way 'Drums And Guns' is as pertinent a reflection of the uncertain, unsettling times we live in as the latest Arcade Fire album.

It's also one of those rare records that gets better towards the end, with the last 4 songs being especially good. 'Take Your Time' floats in on eerie, synthesised voices, piano and chimes, before giving way to 'In Silence' with its pounding, ominous drumming.

'Murderer' is my favourite track. It has a quavering guitar line and some beautiful backing harmonies by Mimi Parker. The line "You might need a murderer/ Someone to do your dirty work" is perversely moving.

Earlier on, there's even a rare shaft of mordant wit in the lines of 'Hatchet' - "You be my Charlie and I can be your George/ Let's bury the hatchet like The Beatles and The Stones." 'Sandinista" has a highly effective, military marching drumbeat and 'Dragonfly', with its lyrics talking of the futility of taking anti-depressants, is particularly resonant in the light of Adam Sparhawk's rumoured breakdown.

One or two of the songs drift by without grabbing the attention and after half an hour I longed for the bracing aggression of a track like 'Monkey' or 'Everybody's Song' off 'The Great Destroyer.' No matter. 'Drums And Guns' is another fine record from a band whose purity and vision make many of their contemporaries sound vain and bombastic.
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