- Audio CD (21 Feb. 2011)
- Limited Edition edition
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Limited Edition
- Label: Bella Union
- ASIN: B004CJ8A5C
- Other Editions: Audio CD | Vinyl | MP3 Download
- Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 195,787 in CDs & Vinyl (See Top 100 in CDs & Vinyl)
Smart Flesh Limited Edition
|Price:||£24.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Delivery Details|
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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). The track seems to revisit that fateful day of September 11th 2001 with the incredible verse:
I was in the bar when they rigged the towers,
Trying to leave all my sins,
The barmaid asked my order,
And where my mind had been,
I tried to recall that high wire,
Phillippe and his foot there in heaven,
As the prophets entered bodly into the bar,
On the Boeing 737, Lord, on the Boeing 737.
all the while the band play as if on an artillary field. It is a true stand out moment that will surely leave The Arcade Fire watching their collective backs in the future.
Overall this is a truly magical record which deserves repeated listens by anyone who loved the band's previous work or by anyone who enjoys the music of artists such as Lambchop (circa 'Is A Woman'), Bonnie Prince Billy or Fleet Foxes.
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
Smart Flesh is perhaps their most mature and consistent effort so far.
The songs range from uplifting stompers such as Boeing 737 and Hey, All You Hippies, to deadly quiet and painfully depressing numbers such as Matter Of Time and Smart Flesh.
Not straying from their characteristic formula, their songs are simple and familiar sounding, and with often-sparse instrumentation they make great use of the space between sounds. What they do so well is strike a chord with the listener, and at no time better so when they are telling a sombre, depressing tale of death and decay.
I have read that the band lived together and recorded the album in a deserted pasta sauce factory in Rhode Island. Whatever the desired effect of this, it has worked in giving the quieter songs a lonely, hopeless feel, and the louder tracks a kind of ambience that I can't quite put my finger on.
If you are a fan, this is more of the same, but even more accomplished than OMGCD. If you are new to the band, I can't recommend them enough. They are a unique, multi-dimensional band, with the ability to really stir up emotion in the listener.