Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Lower retools post-punk for a world on the brink

Illustration for article titled Lower retools post-punk for a world on the brink

A clang of steel, a jangle of nerves, the gaping spaces left when songs are stripped of brawn: These have been the hallmarks of post-punk since the genre arose in the late ’70s as both a reaction against and an abstraction of punk. That context may be long gone, but post-punk has found innumerable new pathways through the decades. But that chrome-plated ghost of post-punk past has always lingered—a reflection of history that Lower’s debut album, Seek Warmer Climes, has hauntingly done away with.

Influences are all well and good, but there isn’t much room for the worship of Joy Division or the early work of The Cure on Seek Warmer Climes. The Copenhagen outfit comes on strong, uncompromising, and singularly desperate on “Another Life,” which opens the album with martial drumming and a swarms of guitar that dive and then dissipate. Lead singer Adrian Toubro urges the band on, whipping up a toxic atmosphere on “Lost Weight, Perfect Skin”—a song that underscores a discomforting obsession with the issue of self-image and identity—and pounding an icy pulpit on the crooning, churning “Bastard Tactics.”

Nothing here feels like the post-punk of old, or even the post-punk revival that the 21st century seems to perpetually renew. On “Craver,” the rhythm section destroys itself and recombines, a new cadence for a world that seems to accelerate its acceptance of the apocalypse. But there’s more than darkness at play. “Expanding Horizons” isn’t exactly cheery, but its ritual incantations are deeply intimate, with Toubro’s confessional chants acting magnetically rather than bent on creating distance. “You should see / These marvels passing me / There is no end to innovation,” he intones on “Tradition,” like paralyzed prey about to be devoured by the future. Seek Warmer Climes is itself predatory—but with a delicate, skeletal shudder, it turns that hunger into a lonely howl.