Low Culture

Low Culture
Dirtnap Records
By Rich Cocksedge (SugarBuzz UK)

In 2012 Low Culture, a group rising from the ashes of Shang-a-Lang and hailing from Las Cruces (NM), delivered a more than nifty four track 7” of fuzzed out melodic pop/garage/punk gems.  In some cases, bands don’t get further than releasing one single or maybe a handful at best so at the time it was a piece of vinyl to cherish. However, that was just a marker in the sand for Low Culture as there was more to come and this now manifests itself in an LP of sublime simplicity yet one which is full of everything a good album requires.  This album quite clearly moves things on quite a way from that initial foray just under twelve months ago.

The dozen tracks open with the titular song, which immediately displays why this is released on Dirtnap Records, home to many other fine bands who have been able to combine punk, garage and pop in varying measures allowing them to be impossible to ignore.  “Screens” races along with pace and as an opening statement is high on content and promise: where Shang-a-Lang had more

of a loose feel to them, Low Culture rein that in ever so slightly and although this is a tight and clean sound it doesn’t lose that relaxed vibe that helps make it easy to listen to.  On listening to this via download, if you blink you will miss the end of “Screens” and the beginning of “I Feel Your Ghost”, which are as close to seamless as is possible save for a key change.

That relaxed feeling doesn’t mean that there aren’t tracks that just let go and “Touchy Feely” does that primarily through the vocals which are much more strained during a rambunctious first half but the tail end of the song brings back that sense of an almost unperturbed delivery.  Another song that has more of an openly punk feel is “Nightmare” which leads into another high tempo number in “Modern World” both helping to add to the occasional frantic delivery featured within the album.

The trio of songs “California”, “Thirty-One” and “To The Grave” do nothing to lower the standards on this album and the latter two seem to be time/age fixated to some degree which many of us find us considering during our lifetime: reflecting on times past and being curious about those ahead, whilst not forgetting the current.

Closing with “Magical Thinking”, Low Culture take almost four and a half minutes to complete the album with a song that does loosens up more than any of the other track on the record, featuring less of a more normal structure, and is almost a wind down to prepare you for the moment that the needle lifts up off the disc, and you head to flip it over to start again.

My final word on the individual songs goes to “Pills”, easily my favourite track on Screens, which I just find impossible to ignore featuring as it does, great music and equally great lyrics to grab hold of and enjoy.  Across this album all the required elements here are used to great effect – vocals, guitars and bass but somewhat surprisingly the drumming must be highlighted, as for me the use of the kit, especially the cymbals, plays a major part in why I love this record so much as it helps propel the songs along with a sense of laid back urgency (an odd concept but one which I feel is inherent in Low Culture’s work).

Mark Ryan (Mind Spiders/Marked Men) has done an excellent job in respect of the production on this album, with it sounding clean yet warm and fuzzy at the same time, sitting on the fence somewhere between lo- and hi-fi.  It’s hard to argue with something this good and for me it’s one of the best albums I’ve heard in the last five years at least.  Low Culture takes the basic structure of rock/punk and uses it to create some fantastic songs that are of a quality which keeps them sounding fresh on each listen.

“Screens” is like a drug to me – I need to hear it on a daily basis and even then it has to be more than once a day, otherwise I get the shakes.  I think I have a problem but hell; it’s one I don’t want to kick.

Low Culture
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Dirtnap Records