Album review: Debut Low Forms LP does rock right
Duluth's Low Forms is one of those bands that have been kicking around for awhile, but they've released only a few things during the course of their existence. Some people are like this -- they'll go out and play shows for years, but, for whateve...
Duluth's Low Forms is one of those bands that have been kicking around for awhile, but they've released only a few things during the course of their existence. Some people are like this - they'll go out and play shows for years, but, for whatever reason, the albums don't flow out of them.
But, just like that, Low Forms is now dropping their first record - or pair of mini-albums that add up to one big album. Or, it's an EP, since it's only 26 minutes and seven songs long. Regardless of what it actually is, Low Forms says it's an album, and they're kinda right, because it feels like one distinct piece of work. And what a piece of work it is.
The best rock music walks a line. You don't want to be too perfect, because then you sound like Three Days Grace or one of those godforsaken radio bands whose music seems to have been played by robots, and it has, because it's been edited and quantized to death. The pursuit of perfection isn't something that should be undertaken by software. It should be undertaken by humans who are aspiring to be as good as they can be. When you let a computer bridge that gap, the life gets sucked out of it.
Conversely, you don't want to be too sloppy. If you're out of tune, out of time, and out of sync as musicians, you just sound bad. The Rolling Stones or The Who or Black Flag or Guided by Voices could all be sloppy bands during their heydays, but they usually made their messiness a kind of Jackson Pollack painting of rock.
The thing that's perhaps most striking on first listen to Low Forms' "The Watchful Eye/Gaze to Bow" is just how perfectly they toe the line between perfect and imperfect. There's an old Led Zeppelin fanzine called "Tight But Loose," and that's perhaps a good phraseology to refer to this album. It's Goldilocks' porridge: not too hot, not too cold, but just right.
The slash in the title makes sense (as do the two separate album covers) when you listen to the record. Side A ("The Watchful Eye") is comprised of three discrete songs that run into each other in a kind of medley, and Side B is the same deal, only with four tracks. Each side presents itself like one long composition, and all the tracks feel part of the same whole, sonically and feel-wise. And consistency is the name of the game across the whole release - really, there's no obvious "best" or "worst" tracks. The whole thing is triumphant.
"Idle Hour" kicks off the proceedings with Pete Biasi warbling Mike Watt-like bass, and the band comes crashing in not long after. Biasi's vocals are melodic but not too sweet - there are points where they recall Jello Biafra's or Guy Picciotto's. Drummer David Frankenfeld propels things nicely without being too rigid, as many punk-rock drummers can be. Guitarist Jeremy Ehert takes the spotlight toward the end with a hypnotic repeating arpeggio that mutates subtly into "De La Grave," a song that later sets him loose on a droney extended raga thing.
As the record grows and changes, it starts to recall The Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away" in the way that it uses different moods to tell one story. In "Quick," it's about an engine driver. On the Low Forms record, there's a lot of nautical imagery. The lyrics are excellent and not too easy to decipher - another mark of good rock. By the end of the album, as the Dinosaur Jr.-ish "Those Who Last" runs through its final "Whoa-oh-oh"s, the urge to start it all over again is strong.
This is an easy one: Low Forms have made what will doubtlessly be one of the best regional records of 2019, one that ticks all the essential rock-boxes with ease. Fantastic stuff.
Artist: Low Forms
Album: "The Watchful Eye/Gaze to Bow"
Recorded at: Flat Black Studios, Iowa City
Produced by: Pete Biasi and Luke Tweedy
Personnel: Pete Biasi (vocals, bass), Dave Frankenfeld (drums), Jeremy Ehert (guitar)
Upcoming show: 9 p.m. Saturday with William Elliott Whitmore and Superior Siren at Pizza Luce, 11 E. Superior St.
Tickets: $15 (price includes $5 off Low Forms LP)