Smart Flesh Limited Edition
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Listening to The Low Anthem’s breakthrough album – 2009’s Oh My God, Charlie Darwin – was a jarring experience. It was a clashing of two genres: profoundly moving acoustic folk and raucous blues-rock. The clash was so marked, it sounded like two separate bands. But the album was roundly praised by critics, who claimed that the two tones combined to capture a vision of America that was grounded in tradition but evolving and fragmented.
Whether you agree or not, it was a tough listen. Smart Flesh plays no such games. Its tone is more unified, dominated by the sensitive end of The Low Anthem’s spectrum: while its predecessor is difficult to define, Smart Flesh is unquestionably a folk album, a record of acoustic guitars, banjos, vocal harmonies and timeless tales. The rock is still there on Hey, All You Hippies! and Boeing 737, but now it pours out in a more controlled fashion – so as not to stamp all over the delicacy of the other songs, but to complement them. Indeed, Boeing 737 is a huge, stomping anthem that sounds like Bob Dylan fronting Arcade Fire. If The Low Anthem don’t release it as a single, they’re mad.
The rest of the album is easy-going and mellifluous, songs built on the simplest of patterns. Each songwriter takes their turn, but the voices don’t compete with each other. So Ben Knox Miller’s Love and Altar, which shares a similar angelic tone to Bon Iver, blends seamlessly into Jeff Prystowsky’s Matter of Time, even though the latter’s vocal is gravellier. And then we get Jocie Adams’s clarinet solo on Wire, which is stunning.
Fans of Oh My God, Charlie Darwin may be disappointed by just how well Smart Flesh hangs together, and there is certainly an argument to be had here about whether this more unified sound is a little too predictable, a little too easy, to keep you gripped. There are lulls amongst these 11 tracks when your mind starts to wander – Burn doesn’t deserve its slot after Wire, and should have been dropped altogether, while some of the album’s later tracks seem to mimic what has gone before. An injection of passion towards the end would have helped: without it, Smart Flesh comes across as a little too atonal to be described as a classic.
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Top Customer Reviews
So the fable goes that 'Smart Flesh' was recorded in an abandoned pasta sauce factory in their native Rhode Island. This is easily identifiable by the records vast depth of sound which is akin to hearing a beautiful hymn being sung in the Sistine Chapel. Tracks such as 'Matter Of Time' or 'Burn' take joy from the smallest of incident (see the incredible use of theirmin in the latter) almost evoking a religious like epiphany. From these quite awakenings, seas could part and man could ressurect from death. The band seem to take joy in making music that is borne from the ether, it feels like a strong wind would blow it away like petals on a violet flower, never to be heard of again.
These quiet, almost hymnal moments are undoubtedly the records high point with opener 'Ghost Woman Blues' and the penultimate 'Golden Cattle' being barely auidible beneath the deafening silence but devastating in their noise. But amongst all this silence sits the standout 'Boeing 737' which is most easily indentifible as being this record's 'The Horizon Is A Beltway' (from OMGCD).Read more ›
A Review by Pete Shields ( Candlelit )
I stumbled upon The Low Anthem about two years ago when I heard the brilliant song CHARLIE DARWIN and purchased the CD Album OH MY GOD CHARLIE DARWIN, which soon became a favourite amongst my vast collection.
I then heard the song BURN and ordered SMART FLESH purely on the strength of this outrageously beautiful song - like Leonard Cohen at his brilliant best - also because I have enjoyed Charlie Darwin so much.
Smart Flesh does not disappoint in any way.
It has had many listens, before posting this review, and its "draw" is more powerful the the most addictive narcotic
It begins with the haunting GHOST WOMAN BLUES, which is a fabulous opening track, swathed in glorious melody and harmony and structured around a lovely double bass and piano with carefully chosen and crafted instrumentation - the clarinet is beautiful
The Low Anthem are wonderful musicians who are always totally sympathetic to each and every song - pure artists of the very highest order.
There are another 5 outstanding songs before we arrive at BURN, which has to be the ballad of the decade.
Every track makes this album " the complete listen "
The movement and variation maintaining the listeners intense attention throughout.
The album ends with the stunning title track, SMART FLESH - another poetic, lyricall masterpiece of Cohen proportions.
I adore this band and this album is even stronger than Oh My God Charlie Darwin - if artistic, understated music is your thing, go buy it - you won't regret it
The Low Anthem are a band that reaffirms your faith in real music. 2009s "Oh my god Charlie Darwin" was one of the best of albums of that year and in ballads like "To Ohio", "To the Ghosts who write history books" and "Charlie Darwin" they produced some of the finest songs of the past decade. Yet judged together "OMGCD" was a bit of a bi-polar record with lovely choral folk sitting alongside Pogues style out and out stompers. "Smart Flesh" is alternatively more of a unified and complete whole but it does have real weakness and you may struggle to get to excited by either "Love and alter" which just about stays the right side of an Art Garfunkel song, the glacially ponderous title track which could have been happily edited from its seven plus minutes to half its length or the pleasant but rather anodyne instrumental "Wire".Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I''m game for anything, particularly in music terms. This results in some unexpectedly wonderful discoveries, but also results in some huge disappointments. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Mr. Iain R. Wear
It is OK, it is very Low Anthem, but their other album Oh My God Charlie Darwin is by far the best. If you don't know the band, start with that one rather than this.Published on 11 Mar. 2013 by Mike Blake
I keep coming back to this album. I think I could listen to "Hey all you hippies" on repeat for i don't know, but a very long time. And then there's Boeing 737? Read morePublished on 14 Feb. 2013 by J. Woolfenden
This third release from the Low Anthem is another beautiful piece that shows a group continually growing and evolving, but still sticking true to their roots and sound. Read morePublished on 8 Oct. 2012 by Victor
Both Amazon and Fopp had this album as one of their best of 2011. I think we must have been listening to different Smart Flesh CDs. It's a dirge. Read morePublished on 1 Feb. 2012 by Mr. Stephen Greensted
This is an excellent album and definite step up from the last release. The album is constantly good throughout and ends on a high. Read morePublished on 13 Sept. 2011 by chipper
Highly recommended! It's really grown on me. Although it's very different, I think that there is a similar spirit at work here to the finest of The National, which I mean as the... Read morePublished on 30 April 2011 by M. Harding
Smart Flesh is the follow-up to Oh My God, Charlie Darwin...which I absolutely loved. The harmonies, the overall sound was superb, and gave me goosebumps. Read morePublished on 19 April 2011 by rockinjohnny12
With each album, The Low Anthem seem to be progressing towards becoming a very special band indeed.
Smart Flesh is perhaps their most mature and consistent effort so... Read more