The Retribution Gospel Choir is a side project of the long-running indie outfit Low, but it’s a side project that stretches the meaning of the term. Two of the three members of Low play in the band (singer-guitarist Alan Sparhawk and bassist Matt Livingston). The third member of Low, drummer-singer Mimi Parker, sings backup beautifully on a song from the Retribution Gospel Choir's self-titled debut album. And two songs on that album appeared in different form on the last Low recording.
But the Retribution Gospel Choir is something much more than a Low remix. Where Low is famous for being slow, quiet, sparse, and delicate, the Choir is loud and raucous (although, it should be said, still kind of slow). Sparhawk cranks up big, grungy guitar chords and lets rip with vaguely Eastern-sounding solos while drummer Eric Pollard bashes away.
Did somebody say grungy? Yes, the album sounds way more like 1994 than Low sounded in 1994. Maybe Sparhawk — who is married to Parker and has two kids — is trying to recapture something from his youth, even if he actually spent that youth being slow, quiet, sparse, and delicate. The album is produced by Mark Kozelek (Red House Painters, Sun Kil Moon), another guy who spent much of the ’90s making slow, quiet, sad music. At times the album seems like the work of a bunch of aging guys cracking open some beers and turning up the amps and grumbling that no one rocks out anymore. At one point on the album, Sparhawk bursts out with “Those damn kids, don’t they understand that you can’t do shit like that?” And then the band shows the kids how it’s supposed to be done.
RETRIBUTION GOSPEL CHOIR, The Casbah, Sunday, July 6, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $10.