The Duluth, Minn. trio known as Low has been around for a while. The band’s legendary slowness and paradoxically punkishness has been a welcome relief from the slaphappy hyperactivity of rock music for more than a decade. “The Great Destroyer” is the much-ballyhooed rock-out album from Low, and while it does give the band room to experiment with new methods and noises, it still retains the integrity and skill of the band’s previous work.
The album opens with a noisy slice of cheap keyboard, burbling out of some old amplifier on the track “Monkey.” The abrasive sound unambiguously draws a line in the sand, separating what follows from any allegiance to the past while setting the tone for the rest of the album. “Monkey” eases the shock of the new, aggressive sound with the presence of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s always-beautiful harmony vocals.
With the dark album opener “Monkey” out of the way, the band casually cast off one of its most sunny, commercially appealing pop songs, “California.” It’s probably the most upbeat Low song ever, featuring a sweet vocal melody and catchy, breezy chorus. It’s the most purposeful track, designed to be the essential single from an unlikely singles band.
But is “The Great Destroyer” a good new direction for a venerable band, or the death-knell compromising of a pristine career? The answer is neither; “The Great Destroyer” just sounds like a really good band exploring. It’s also as good a jumping-on point as any for a listener wanting to get into Low.