Does this ring a bell? A small-town band with a three-letter name attains cult status by issuing a string of entrancing albums full of cryptic jangle and mumbling majesty. Bored, the group eventually starts to tinker with the very formula that put it on the indie-rock map.

Yes, Low has become R.E.M., and The Great Destroyer is a departure from its patented molasses-paced quietude. Of course, Low has occasionally flirted with speed and noise before, but none of it prepares you for this disc's grab bag of abrupt angles, folky cushioning, and sandpaper sheen. All the whimpers have been swapped for proclamations, the languor for a murderous urgency. Alan Sparhawk's reedy tweet no longer floats; it punctures. The harmonies he weaves with Mimi Parker tie together every manner of tempo and tone, from John Cale minimalism to Crazy Horse meltdowns, from handclaps to middle fingers. But does it work? Shit, yeah. In fact, with its textural and psychic depth, The Great Destroyer is Low's Automatic for the People. Let's just keep our fingers crossed that Sparhawk and crew don't create a Monster anytime soon.

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