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Side Project Alley

June 1, 2008

A “side project” typically arises for one of three reasons:

  1. The instigator is a minor member of a band and is frustrated at their lack of creative input or attention.
  2. They have songs or a genre to explore that don’t fit within the current band’s sound.
  3. They have friends in other bands or from the bar they used to drink at illegally in high school and one night they think “Yeah, we should totally get a band together.”

Retribution Gospel Choir started off as a mix of #2 and #3. Main-man Alan Sparhawk’s day job is with Low, previously the softest, slowest band you could think of. He’s been the principal songwriter in Low over its fifteen-year existence, but Retribution Gospel Choir allowed him to bust out some grungy guitar riffs with fellow sad-sack Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon).

Reason #3 had disappeared by the time the debut album came out this year, as Kozelek has pulled back him contribution to production duties. Reason #2 has also become more spurious with the release of Low’s second last album The Great Destroyer, which was heavy on distorted guitars and upbeat rhythms. Which kind of makes you wonder why Sparhawk needs the other band.

Anyway, the album is quite good, even if it doesn’t explore new territory. Strangely enough, there are a couple of songs borrowed from last year’s Low album, Drums and Guns. This would be completely redundant if Low hadn’t pulled back on the rock and explored more electronic sounds with that album. So they make a nice contrast after all.

Perhaps RGC will take a different turn next album to stay off the Low-beaten path.

Low – “Breaker”

Retribution Gospel Choir – “Breaker”

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