Of all the things that the debut album from Low Dose had to offer, one of the most unexpected was that it made this reviewer reconsider the legacy of Courtney Love.
Once upon a time in Grungeland, Love was Kurt Cobain's counterpart, and the Hole album "Live Through This" was considered a serious piece of rock. The intervening years haven't been good to Love, however. She was stupidly blamed by conspiracy theorists for the depressive drug addict Cobain's death, she went through her own series of addiction and mental-illness issues, she blew her chance at an acting career, she put out too many bad records, so on and so forth. But it's undeniable that, at one point, her piercing shriek could shatter glass at 10 paces. It was throat-shredding at its finest.
On Low Dose's self-titled record, the band doesn't achieve full liftoff until the third track ("For Sure"), where they decide to let off the brakes and lead singer Itarya Rosenberg gets the chance to open up her pipes and make a case that she might be able to out-scream Courtney Love in her prime. The record is merely OK up until that point. Opener "Low" is shoe-gazey and a bit middling, save for a few dense blocks of power chords. Here, Rosenberg sings melodically. It works, but it's mostly unremarkable and far too inert to be an effective opener. "Right On" is better, like a Fugazi/Helmet combo, and Rosenberg starts to reveal her pipes. But the song completely peters out anticlimactically, almost as if the band forgot to finish writing it.
But when "For Sure" drops in the three slot, Low Dose's true potential is revealed. Finally, the band lets loose with an uptempo stomper that gives Rosenberg a perfect chance to show how well she can wail like a banshee while also selling a catchy melody. "We got so along," she screams. "I don't know what's wrong." It's a standard breakup ditty, but with a mouthful of fangs. The band - which also features members of the now-defunct Fight Amp - blasts away with abandon behind her. It's gotta be one of the songs of the year, at least as far as heavy rock goes.
Unfortunately, there's not another moment like that on the record, which means that the band has room to hone their craft. There are great parts, like when "Start Over" ups the aggression at its halfway point, or when "Away" deploys a crushing grind riff. But when the record starts allowing the dudes in the group to sing, as on "Sinking" and "Otherworldly Motives," it all starts to become a bit generic, and it starts to sound like every other grungy punk band in history.
"Song 12" is a 77-second hardcore-styled song that has plenty of energy, but it doesn't really go anywhere. "Not Break Skin" is, weirdly, a tune that sounds somewhat like early Foo Fighters, back when Dave Grohl was still smart enough to play his own drum tracks. But, again, it's not Rosenberg on lead vocals, so the track just kinda floats by, sounding and feeling good but not really making much of an impression. Closer "Legendary Divorce" references a Nirvana lyric, but the song mostly sounds like a bare-bones Cure track, and the inevitable switch to heaviness is too predictable.
There's definitely something special about Itarya Rosenberg, and Low Dose is a perfectly capable rock band. But they'd better have more in their bag of tricks for their next album, and one would hope that that includes writing more uptempo, catchy songs like "For Sure." This Dose needs to be upped, but not by a whole lot.
Artist: Low Dose
Album: "Low Dose"
Recorded at: Gradwell House Studios, Haddon Heights, New Jersey
Produced by: Low Dose and Steve Poponi
Personnel: Itarya Rosenberg (vocals, guitar), Jon DeHart (bass), Mike McGinnis (guitar), Dan Smith (drums)