The Low Anthem – Smart Flesh

I am well late with this review.  But it’s really only over the festive period that I started to listen to this record properly.  Thank Christ I did though because it’s just stunning.  It really is.

I never got into The Low Anthem through their debut record.  A bit like Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver etc I kind of rebelled when everyone started a hooting and hollering about this stunning new record they’d all heard/bought.  The usual fanfare that turns me off an artist fairly quickly.  Thing is, it’s not like I even give them a chance.  I just refuse to listen for some reason until the kerfuffle has died down and I can make my own assessment on the music without all these voices in my ears about whether I should like something or not.  So, this really is my first proper encounter with The Low Anthem and it’s a pretty great way to start.  It makes me want to go back to the debut now.  And I am glad that this is how it’s panned out.

‘Ghost Woman Blues’ is just a stunning way to open a record and sets the tone for what is to follow, in the same way that title track ‘Smart Flesh’ finishes the album in a sublime manner.  Although I did, and do, struggle a little with the weird country shuffle of ‘Apothecary Love’.  Fortunately, ‘Boeing 737’ kicks in immediately afterwards and reignites the album in brilliant fashion. (A tune about the destruction of the TwinTowers, cutting and direct without feeling sentimental or contrived – perhaps due to the wonderful imagery created by the lyrics).  Anyways,  it’s an odd blip in an otherwise faultless record and yet, it’s an oddly endearing tune despite not  fitting in the context of the record.  And I mean that about the record.  It’s pretty close to faultless for me.  I wish I had listened to it earlier.  It would certainly have been in my top 10 of 2011.  It’s just great and I cannot get it off my stereo at the moment.

I don’t know what it is about music like this that fills me with such pleasure.  It’s a little like the writing of Raymond Carver, Willy Vlautin and most recently Donald Ray Pollock.  There is something unquestionably American about it.  I know that sounds obvious.  But it’s like the photography of Pat Sansone in that much of what he photographs is completely American.  It could only be America that you are looking at in his pictures.  From the broken down signs to the images of the Marlboro man.  And this music, like the work of Carver, Vlautin, Pollock and Sansone represents America perfectly.  It’s not the glitz and glam of NYC or Los Angeles but the down trodden and the broken.  The rough around the edges.   It comes from somewhere much darker and yet with much more soul.  I don’t know.  It just resonates with me in the same way that those other mediums do.  It gets right into my soul, my bones and my blood.  It moves me.  It makes me want to hear more.  That’s what good art of any form should do right?  The Low Anthem achieve it beautifully with this record.  It is such a fearful record.  I love it.

You can check out the Low Anthem here.  Enjoy.


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