Making Beautiful Music
Chicago's Low Skies evoke the best of early U2
U2's "Vertigo" is ubiquitous. The best single they've released since The Joshua Tree, the monster kicks off with that "Working for the Weekend" sticks-clap, a sprinkle of The Edge's trickery, and becomes a fucking behemoth of crisp power-popping, delivering our young decade's most singable chorus.
But say what you will about the qualities of the Irish bulwark's new single, it's simply product. It ain't beautiful. Unfortunate, but a sign of the times. A group of pathos-producing friends has mutated, adapted, and toughened up, now trading in danceable pap. Wickedly enjoyable, infectious, floor-shaking, semi (or quasi, for cynics)-meaningful, but ultimately pointless. Ideal, then, that we can look to a great Chicago band for the vicarious intensity and appropriately hyper-emotive presentation we came to expect from U2 back in the day.
Low Skies' "I Have Been to Beautiful Places" wears its heart on its sleeve. Or, rather, its title is evident from the first moment of their brief new effort. A sampled "love you" starts, repeats, modulates, becomes more abstract, fades, and simply haunts throughout the masterful first track, "five's gone fast". "Now she's yours but she used to be mine" crashes into content and form's merge in an opaque reference to Cobain's suicide. Obviously about love lost, Chris Salvater's jagged guitar and weeping vocals need no words, adequately expressing angst without the need of: "this song's about us and they're all about death and crime".
Low Skies knows drama. Jason Creps whacks the heavy-hearted toms alongside multi-instrumentalist Luther Rochester, with Brandon and Jacob Ross filling out the propulsive pathos--including an organ that provides emotional undercurrent to a band that's already broken up once in their four-year existence. In other words, "ready to be done" arrives but four tracks into the album and follows in a couplet from "still young, and..." Could you get just a bit more gut-rendingly personal? Perhaps the plaintive guitar at track's end signifies an attempt to change, but if Salveter could be found guilty of anything it would be giving too much.
In our age of Bush, dirty bombs, more Bush, expanding gaps (of class and between people), Low Skies may have recorded the most appropriate reaction I've yet heard. The personal becoming political, the boys dredge up what the aforementioned purveyors of the once-poignant once effortlessly dealt. Whether Low Skies cares so we don't have to or they help us express through vicarious catharsis, it doesn't matter. They do it well. They want us to watch them work; you can do just that on Friday. Stick around for Neko Case and the Sadies.
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