Retribution Gospel Choir at Schubas | Concert preview
A muscular side project from members of Low.
Recently the band Low has gotten almost too adult for its own good. While I appreciate the deeply felt, carefully rendered odes to spiritual sustenance on its latest albums, sometimes I miss the blown-out production, celebrations of deafness and pleas to be God’s hit man that made the Duluth, Minnesota, trio’s mid-’00s recordings so compelling. That’s where Retribution Gospel Choir comes in.
Although the band shares two-thirds of its members with Low, RGC’s higher energy level and stylistic variety provide singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk with a vehicle to get his ya-yas out, and present an opportunity to indulge the sort of perverse ideas about production and direction that no longer make it onto Low records. Bassist Steve Garrington and drummer Eric Pollard favor crisp tempos that range from mid-to-quick, and Retribution performances have always been hard-edged and immediate.
The band’s most interesting when it switches things up. For example, last year it released the revolution EP, a four-song, ten-minute 7" that delivered a pithy punch, which it has just followed up with a new LP, 3, made up of two epic tracks. “Can’t Walk Out” uses lumbering riffs, breakaway drum and guitar forays, and howling, massed vocals to build tension for nearly 20 minutes, which then dissipates slowly across the entire second side via extended Television-style duels between Sparhawk and guest guitarist Nels Cline. More than an alternative to Low’s stately cadences, RGC promises to keep us on our toes.