Review Summary: Misery Signals + Comeback Kid + Living With Lions + Peter Wolf Crier = Lowtalker
Tracing the lineage of Lowtalker would be much easier with a diagram, but the Wisconsin-based quartet certainly bring together an interesting array of influences. Truth be told, much of the confusion – and in turn, fascination - has to do with Canadian born singer/guitarist Stu Ross. After establishing himself in critically acclaimed metalcore maestros Misery Signals, Ross jumped ship to pop-punk outfit Living With Lions, before recently crossing over to hardcore band Comeback Kid. You with me? But wait, it gets better. In Comeback Kid, Ross has replaced guitarist Casey Hjelmberg, who just happens to be Ross’ six-string wielding sidekick in Lowtalker. Also pulling double duty for Comeback Kid and Lowtalker is bassist/vocalist Matt Keil. Got it? Good… But there’s still more! On their excellent 2010 debut EP ‘People Worry About Everything’, drumming duties fell to Misery Signals’ Branden Morgan. Clearly, more diversity was required, so out went Morgan and in came Brian Moen; drummer for indie-folk duo Peter Wolf Crier!
Now that you’re completely confused, you may as well throw all of that out the window, since Lowtalker sound very little like most of the aforementioned groups! Playing a brand of gruff hard-hitting melodic punk, Lowtalker combine the sound of 90s punk rockers Hot Water Music and Face to Face with some of the genres current mainstays such as Red City Radio and Polar Bear Club. On six track release ‘The Marathon EP’, this is apparent from the get-go with opening couplet ‘Like Minnows’ and ‘Tension’ supplying the genre’s typically sturdy backbone of a rhythm section, while allowing an exhilarating dual guitar attack to provide both gritty riffs and melodic leads. Meanwhile, the gruff vocals of both Ross and Keil deliver choruses which are deceptive earworms, a trait which continues to surprise as the dual vocal dynamic kicks in later on ‘Prescriptions’ and closer ‘Chances’.
If anything, the twenty minutes worth of ‘The Marathon EP’ stumbles at its two heaviest tracks ‘Barstow’ and ‘The Weight of An Anvil’, with the sound here verging on the derivative. The positive aspect of even these tunes, however, is that the quartet are so accomplished at their craft, that they aren’t afraid to let their music do the talking with extended instrumental sections. In comparison to their slightly superior previous EP, the song-writing has marginally improved with the expert use of mood on a track such as the aptly named ‘Tension’ proving that Lowtalker are now much more in sync with each other. Unfortunately, this does tend to limit the flashy and anthemic flourishes which not only captured the attention on their debut, but also provided a breath of fresh air first time around.
If one had to conclude what Lowtalker’s greatest strength was, it is their ability to naturally merge that always tricky combination of in-your-face roughness with caught-in-your-head melodies. Rarely does either side of the equation totally envelop the other, and kudos must therefore go to the EPs production which deftly balances heaviness and accessibility. So while one might cast aside the quartet’s past projects from a sound and genre perspective, it is not only clear that Lowtalker’s individual members put their years of diverse experience to good use, but are also up for the challenge of working as a unit to produce a new slant on an established genre. Here’s hoping that they can somehow find the time between playing ‘Ring a Ring o’ Roses’ with their already established bands to someday release a fully realized Lowtalker LP.
Recommended Tracks: Like Minnows, Tension & Prescriptions.