Low Life, Downer Edn (Goner; Cool Death; Alter)
Sydney, Australia’s Low Life last week released Downer Edn (pronounced like “edition”), their first set of new material since 2014’s Dogging. Having expanded to a quintet with the addition of Dizzy Daldal and Yuta Matsumura to the ranks the result, as you might expect, is a fuller-sounding record that retains all of the roughness that made Dogging such a thrill.
Opener “The Pitts” starts us along, wrapped in a gothic fog, music and vocals heavily cloaked in grit, before galloping off into a four squared mosh pit groove. Highlights are many, the group’s knack for a burying moments of melodic bliss amongst the gloom in tracks like ‘Lust Forevermore’, which feel like a rope thrown over the bow. The album’s mixing of death rock, psych, Magazine-style post-punk and flanged new wave is a heady concoction that’s as much fun to drink deep as it is to parse through. Personal fave, ‘Rave Slave’, sounds a bit like A Bell is a Cup or Ideal Copy Wire pushed into the red of the more dramatic Killing Joke on Brighter Than a Thousand Suns.
As with Dogging, these tracks can barely suppress a sneer at the general state of, well, most things – a kind of equal opportunity disregard that tends to underpin most worthwhile critical pieces, musical or otherwise. Mitch Tolman’s vocals generally idle in a fixed simmer, as though he can’t be arsed to indulge the anger underneath and, when so moved, can only summon a withering “fuck it” (‘Glamour’). According to the notes accompanying the record, it was heavily influenced by their hometown, and I think many can relate to a heavy ambivalence towards the place they grew up (either from inside or from a distance) – particularly one as iconic as Sydney. The changes (the good, bad, and eye-roll worthy) that take place over time can inspire both pride and dismissal in equal measures. Downer Edn feels as much an embrace – without sparing the rod – as a mirrored shield held up against the cities ills.
Downer Edn is out now, courtesy of Cool Death (AUS), Goner (US), and Alter (EU/UK).
Highlights include: “Lust Forevermore”; “Rave Slave”; “Lad Life”.