Joe Pug, Low Anthem | Hideout | Rock, Pop, Etc | Chicago Reader

Joe Pug, Low Anthem Soundboard

When: Sat., Aug. 8, 10 p.m. 2009

On their new album, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Nonesuch), this trio from Providence, Rhode Island, sound like time travelers from the mountains of West Virginia who’ve been listening religiously to early Low albums. But despite their rustic instrumentation and old-fashioned apocalyptic lyrics, fixated on nature’s fury and man’s cruelty, the Low Anthem are decidedly contemporary; their beautiful, hymnlike music drapes the restrained vocals of Ben Knox Miller in gentle guitar arpeggios, curving clarinet lines, and crawling bass. Whenever they try to raise the volume, though, they break their own spell. The primitive, stomping “The Horizon Is a Beltway” makes them sound like half-assed Tom Waits wannabes, as does their cover of “Home I’ll Never Be,” a Jack Kerouac tune that Waits has recorded—Miller trades in his whispery delivery for a gruff shout that might as well be a deliberate caricature of Waits. But Miller’s gorgeous falsetto on the lovely, drifting “Charlie Darwin” is almost enough to make me forget those missteps. The Low Anthem play Lollapalooza early today. -Peter Margasak

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