Things We Lost In The Fire was an exquisite piece of work that managed to wrap you in its melancholy, taking you deeper into its hopeless warmth and only allowing you up for air to keep you alive. 2005's The Great Destroyer saw the band take a whiplash turn of direction as they showed us that all this brooding and threatening that we had persevered with was about to pay off. They flexed their muscles and the result was awesome. So where to after this turn? The Great Destroyer was such a bold move for a band with such a distinctive back catalogue that there was no going back from it. Drums And Guns unfortunately shows Low trying to.
This starts off very slow indeed, but through Belarus Low manage to maintain a certain tension, or air of expectation. It ticks over nicely, but in classic Low style goes nowhere - and leaves you wanting more. This is to their credit, as in the past they have expertly held your attention through miles of empty, lonely terrain but as Breaker creeps in with it's subtle electronic tip toes and itself goes nowhere you start to wonder whether you have the patience for another long and desolate journey. This seems like an album of sketches, rather than finished ideas. Few of the songs have any kind of resolution and when they do, as in Your Poison, they tail off after barely a minute - while Hatchet is entirely based around a very questionable concept of "Let's bury the hatchet like The Beatles and The Stones."
The glimmers of light throughout this record are the introduction of a more electronic sound. It gives the vast sonic landscapes some definition. Always Fade has an organic, sampled beat that mirrors the muddy textures they used to create with the guitar and Breaker adopts a totally different minimal sound that supports the vocals very well.
This is by no means a bad album, but for a band from whom we expect greatness it is disappointing. They seem to be reconsidering their brave move, but finding that it took them so far away from their original position they are struggling to get back. Since I first heard this band I have been so impressed with their confidence and conviction. They were always a band that knew exactly what they were doing and when playing live they displayed a command of their audience that throughout their marathon, barren performances you could have heard a pin drop. This conviction seems to have dwindled slightly here and I can't fight the feeling of restlessness that creeps in during this record. I am in no way suggesting that I'm getting off the Low Train, but I might read my book for a while until the view changes.