Retribution Gospel Choir’s live sets have already proven that singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk and bassist Steve Garrington don’t sacrifice their meticulous sense of sonics when they step away from their main band, Low, to rock out with drummer Eric Pollard. RGC’s self-titled debut album in 2007 boasted a great set of songs, but the follow-up, 2, dwarfs it in sheer dynamic scope. Sparhawk’s aggressive riffs still anchor the sound, and Pollard’s drum fills still evoke a graceful sandbag ballet, but pristine vocal harmonies and dub-style echoes sneak up to add another layer of gravity.
In spite of the unabashed riff-and-release of “Workin’ Hard,” 2 is no carefree trip to the biker bar. “Hide It Away,” “Poor Man’s Daughter,” and “Bless Us All” only prove that the downcast songwriting Sparhawk perfected in Low can sting just as much, and as beautifully, with bellowing toms and extra currents of guitar whipping around it. The Low chills and classic-rock triumphs lock into perfect balance when the first chord of “White Wolf” strikes, like an invigorating winter wind or a snowball packed with ice. As if to make up for Low’s “burned my guitar” heartbreaker “Death Of A Salesman,” RGC mounts a slow, fiery airlift to glory on “Electric Guitar”—perfect, considering that 2 often feels like an eloquent love-letter to cranked-up Gibsons.