Low, C’mon

Sam Adams

By Sam Adams

on 04.11.11 in Reviews

After Drums & Guns and The Great Destroyer, you might assume the title of Low's ninth album indicates the band is lowering its sights, setting aside universals for a simple, colloquial invitation. But Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker have merely turned their attentions inward, searching, sometimes painfully, for a way to co-exist with both the world and each other. The four-year break that preceded C'mon is the longest in the band's nearly two decades, following a rough patch during which they lost both founding bassist Zak Sally and his replacement (Steve Garrington handles four-string duties here). On C'mon, Sparhawk and Parker seem, first and foremost, to be singing to each other, reassuring, confessing and sometimes confronting. There hasn't been so honest a report from inside a long-term relationship since Yo La Tengo's …and then nothing turned itself inside-out.

Both intimate and epic, turning private emotions into larger truths

Recorded in the same Duluth, Minnesota, church as 2002's Trust, C'mon manages to feel both intimate and epic, pushing through private emotions towards larger truths. Enhanced by banjo, strings and lap steel (the latter courtesy of Wilco's Nels Cline), the songs expand the band's sound without violating the fragile simplicity at its core. The chiming glockenspiel on "Try to Sleep" lends it the air of a lullaby, although it also reminds us there are some rests you don't wake up from. Until then, Sparhawk advises, "Don't look at the camera."

On "Witches," Sparhawk makes clear his disdain for those who put image before honesty: "All you guys out there trying to act like Al Green: You're all weak," he sings, the only time he veers close to the anger of the previous two albums. Being a tough guy is easy; it's laying yourself bare that hurts. On "Nothing But Heart," Sparhawk straps himself to the title phrase for more than six minutes, incanting it over and over again as the band swells behind him. (Even the church's organ gets into the act). Parker chimes in with a countermelody, trying to guide Sparhawk through the storm. There's a sense of a journey completed, a dark night of the soul weathered and a glint of sun breaking through the clouds. If Low has lowered its sights, it's only to look in the mirror.