Album Review: The Low Anthem – Oh My God, Charlie Darwin [Rough Trade]
A name such as The Low Anthem conjures up images of highly stylish Interpol/Joy Division angular indie rock types; begging to be picked apart by legions of genre-deriding internet critics. Fortunately for both parties what we have here is a happy misunderstanding. Yes, instead of slick-haired New Yorking scenesters with cigarette holsters, The Low Anthem deliver the polar opposite – a honey tongued collection of fantastic country-infused folk-rock, without the cheese.
Album opener ‘Charlie Darwin’ sneaks up on the listener, all plunking guitars before a voice like silk glides over the top and before you know it, you’re hooked. The following track ‘To Ohio’ sets a similar tone, but it is more nostalgic and puts the “low anthem” of their name to good use. However, just as you get settled for a night of wooly jumpers, red wine and cigarettes someone in the corner hits the jukebox and ‘The Horizon Is A Beltway’ kicks you out of the living room and in to the bayou. It’s here where the Low Anthem reveal their schizophrenic (though distinctly American) colours and we’re treated to a bevy of raucous blues-rock- it’s like Tom Waits honky tonking in a roadhouse on Highway 61. It’s a sharp contrast to the haunting Neil Young-esque openers and it’s a trick that works very well, although it is perhaps overused throughout the rest of the album.
What really comes through though, is that this is a band of extraordinary ability. ‘Oh My God, Charlie Darwin’ is extremely well written, beautiful even, familiar, but not predictable. It’s not hugely innovative, but tracks like ‘To Ohio (Reprise)’ are the real evidence of naturally gifted song writers who are teetering on the edge of something superb. They’re the Neil Young to Fleet Foxes‘ Dylan and it’s no surprise they’re tipped for big things in 2009.
EDIT: Keep an eye out for the forthcoming re-release, out 09/06/09.