Screens, (2013) was damn near perfect. So what does Low Culture have in store with their second LP?
It’s not disappointment, that’s for sure.
Places to Hide continues their run of modern garage-punk that’s run through the melody filter and cleaned up of the fuzz and distortion, letting the elemental energy and punk tempo drive the songs while the vocals are clean and, for the most part, are actually sung. The tight rhythm section, which doesn’t let up for a second over the 33-minute album, is the hero here while the dual vocal approach of Chris Mason and Joe Ayoub give that melodic touch to push it over the edge and ahead of the pack.
While the lyrics are somewhat pessimistic, Mason’s voice is a pick me up that bursts with energy—a ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day, or some such nonsense. It’s well on display in the smooth but elastic delivery of “Wrong Side of History.”
The records starts with “Comfort Zones,” which takes all of three seconds to swoop me back into Screens mode. The band, as has been written elsewhere, features members of Shang-A-Lang and Marked Men and it balances that Marked Men energetic/melodic focus with something harder to define that’s more emotional, even primal. Low Culture thrives in the zone between core emotion and driving, delicately forceful rock. It’s powerful, but non-confrontational; meaningful but not bogged down in self-importance.
Some of the jams that stand out most are “I Don’t Buy It,” a quick and repetitive poppy blast; “On Fire” with some seriously heartfelt (and a bit scratchy) vocals from Ayoub; and the dreamy “Invisible Tonight” that’s reminiscent of some Ramones-y ballad-esque moments, but with more guitar and structural variation.
Then the band throws the curveball final song “Shake It Off” into the mix, displaying room to grow but without making their sophomore record a change of direction record either. “Shake It Off” is steeped in new wave with a Joe Jackson meets Mind Spiders space-punk vibe.
Balancing a great debut with new direction is always a challenge but nobody wants to hear the same record redone either. On Places to Hides, Low Culture finds that magical zone that rides the momentum of their debut but adds more depth as the wave keeps pummeling.
8.4 / 10
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