In addition to his longtime partnership with his wife Mimi Parker in the band Low, Alan Sparhawk has let his dirty blues side go with The Black-Eyed Snakes, and now fuzzes things down and rocks out with Retribution Gospel Choir. If you want to get an idea of how this new group sounds, imagine Low (minus Parker) basically turning up their amps and stomping on their guitar pedals, then doing their best rocking Neil Young impression.
Retribution Gospel Choir is another three-piece (which features Low bassist Matt Livingston and drummer Eric Pollard), and this self-titled release finds them writing concise tracks that are surprisingly hummable at times. Ten songs run just a tad over a half-hour in length, and speaking of Low, the group actually take two songs from Drums & Guns and re-intepret them within this new framework. Those two tracks ("Take Your Time" and "Breaker") actually sound more interesting here, with potent, often-blistering musical backing that fits the dark lyrical content of the songs even better than the almost wispy originals. Credit goes to the group for writing the translatable songs in the first place, but the thrashing guitars (with Parker providing some backup vocals on the latter) and thick percussion here only enforces the potent words.
It's not all relentless chugga-chugga guitars, either, as "Destroyer" taffy's things out with slow-motion stoner riffs and aching vocals from Sparhawk. Likewise, "Holes In Our Heads" sways softly at first with only delicate strums and a pitter-patter of hi-hats, but builds and unfurls over only three minutes, pouring out into another hazy breakdown of noisy cymbal mashing and power chords. As mentioned above, this brisk release is by no means jam-oriented, despite my comparisons to Neil Young. The longest song on the release is barely over four minutes, and most get all their thoughts on the paper in well under three. If you enjoyed the more rocking moments of Low (from The Great Destroyer), this release is definitely worth hunting down. It's nothing showy or out-of-the-ordinary, but it's a solid batch of songs from a seasoned group of musicians.