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The whole “five band years = a lifetime” biz trope is justified, if not negated, by the second album from Sydney’s Low Life. Arriving with an aura of anticipation, ‘Downer Edn’ (read: Edition) feels like a collective document of the band’s timeline since their unforgettable debut ‘Dogging’; an album which made enough of a mark on the punk landscape in 2014 to justify a reissue on London’s Alter in 2017.
Recorded over two years and mixed in 2018 by Mikey Young (Total Control / Eddy Current Suppression Ring), ‘Downer Edn’ sees the core trio of Mitch Tolman, Cristian O’Sullivan and Greg Alfaro expand their ranks to a five piece. Dizzy Daldal of Oily Boys & Orion was brought in to reinforce the thick wall of guitars, whilst fifth member Yuta Matsumura, also of Oily Boys & Orion, re-joined the group later to free Tolman up as a dedicated front man for live duties. The hours of studio work have resulted in making the band sound more confident and fully realised, reaching for and finding a sound that was perhaps unattainable 5 years prior. However, lurking behind the bigger vision and polished production ‘Downer Edn’ is a complex proposition and remains a dark blast of an album. Expansive and cohesive, yet shimmering and rough; something they can be proud to call a definitive statement.
As far as Australian punk is concerned, Downer Edition not only shatters the boundaries applied by that descriptor, it does so with the lushest attack conceivable. Like their (admitted) influence, the enigmatic Ohio legends of obscurity, V3, seldom has the f*** word been sung (repeatedly) in such a believable and poetic manner. The visceral pounding of melodies throughout the album transforms their inspirations; desperation, neuroses, trauma, survival, hooliganism, violence, hope, rejuvenation, and their hometown of Sydney’s full architectural and social scope – from a realm of intangibility to the very, very tangible. In the words of Mitch, “We’re influenced by Sydney as a whole, whether it be the hot and muggy concrete streets of the West and South West, the “glorious beaches” of South Sydney, the racial tensions left over from the putrid Cronulla riots of 2006, the pompous and superficial fake tan/ bleached teeth combo suburbs of Bondi, as well as Sydney’s iconography: The Harbour, the Bridge, the Opera House, Kings Cross. All the desperation embedded in and around these areas, including the eternal influx of troubled people looking to get into trouble, is our experience and main influence.”
Unified on ‘RBB,’ ruminating on ‘92’, chasing the escape on ‘Rave Slave,’ and unwillingly defiant on ‘Warrior,’ Downer Edition reaches past the wild ride of Dogging – this truly is the album that Low Life have been threatening to make for nearly a decade.
Downer Edition is out on March 15 on Goner Records in North America, Alter in Europe, and Cool Death in Australia.
Recorded from 2016-2017 by Mickey Grossman