After spending most of the 00s pushing their sound forward (to mostly mediocre results), the Low buckle down for four years before releasing … more mediocrity.
Low were always a b-list artist who I suspect – as with the entire slowcore movement – only got (relatively) famous because they were there at the right place and the right time (the 90s). Yeah, b-list artist, with their b-list melodies/harmonies and even worse lyrics (most of is it vague mantras and when they’re not, they’re embarrassingly bad. “Witches” is the nadir, with the meaningless and forced rhyme, “When you have finally submitted to embarrassing capture / Take out that baseball bat and show those witches some pasture.” It goes on to tackle other singers with “All you guys out there tryin’ to act like Al Green / All you guys out there tryin’ to act like Al Green, you’re all weak,” which is ironic considering Alan Sparhawk’s yawning whine). Maybe it’s mean to pick on one of their late-period albums; maybe I don’t care.
Low fans tell me that the following The Invisible Way is worse than C’mon. I haven’t heard The Invisible Way in full since the year it first came out so I can’t confirm, but “Plastic Cup” and “Just Make It Stop” are worth more than anything here, and Jeff Tweedy’s mellowed out production suited their sound. This is in contrast to Matt Beckley’s production on C’mon; he’s a superstar pop producer (whose resume includes Leona Lewis and Avril Lavigne and will shortly include Icona Pop and Ke$ha), and in the unlikeliest of all artist-producer combos, he exposes just how b-list the melodies really are. “Done” is airy filler; “$20” and “Majesty / Magic” both plod endlessly (though the latter plods towards a nice conclusion); “Nightingale” sounds like it’ll inspire the Antlers’ Familiars, which wasn’t very good but still better than this. Opener “Try to Sleep” (with its slight jangle) and “Especially Me” (with its different time signature) aside, it’s not a coincidence that the best songs from Cmon are the ones which feature other instruments (the aforementioned “Witches,” which has a banjo; “Nothing But Heart,” which has Nels Cline doing Nels Cline-like things).