Low's music has always rewarded careful listening, and its tempos have famously permitted it. Having been lumped in with the slowcore movement for their beautiful and glacial music, the band's name conjures thoughts of songs that move with geological speed.
But it's reductionist to think of them as slowcore. The other ingredients in their musical mix include memorable melodic lines, a sure sense of timbre and atmosphere, drones, the haunting vocal harmonies of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, the anchoring bass of Zak Sally, and an underappreciated sense of humor that has led them to cover songs by the Misfits and Journey.
All are the real musical arrows in Low's quiver and all of it was documented on last year's b-sides compilation, A Lifetime of Temporary Relief). With the tempo positively frantic by the standards of past performances on Long Division, those arrows find their mark in The Great Destroyer.
The album merits a song-by-song review, if only because the band's musical experimentation causes them to stretch in many different directions at once.
The album opener, "Monkey" starts with a wave of fuzzed-out bass, and the bass and guitar stay snarling at the front of the mix throughout. "California" is, by contrast, a slice of sunny pop with memorable harmonies and an oddly hooky chorus ("You had to sell the farm/And go to California where it's warm").
The song falters a bit as it pulls the energy back in the last bridge, turning what would otherwise be a perfect single into just a great song. The same style plus a dash of guitar line a la U2's the Edge, informs "Just Stand Back," a little later in the album, and is deconstructed with distorted vocals, odd stereo placements, hand claps, and crunching guitar lines on "Step."