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San Antorium

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Album Review

Godhead's creation was a thoroughly involved affair, but the recording of Lowlife's fourth album was arguably even more of a hard road, with new guitarist Hamish Mackintosh leaving along with drummer Grant McDowall, leaving singer Craig Lorentson and bassist Will Heggie as the remaining original members. They recruited Hugh Duggie and Martin Fleming to fill the empty spots, and battling everything from personal demons to the financial collapse of Rough Trade in 1991 they recorded the enjoyable San Antorium, easily the group's most distinctly different album yet. While everything up through Godhead had followed a generally identifiable sound and approach — charging, dark, epic post-punk guitar workouts — San Antorium let in the sunlight as never before. Throughout the album Lorentson's glowering croon sounds its most vulnerable and warm here, while the peppy kick of the opening "Jaw" is easily the brightest song the group had recorded to that point, setting the tone for the rest of the release. Duggie's favoring of both starker arrangements and gentler riffs is a key reason for the difference, and the resultant reliance on tension and suggestion instead of overdrive can be readily heard on songs such as "Inside In" and "Suddenly Violently Random." Even those songs that feel much more in the line of the band's older work, like the slow majesty of "Good as It Gets," exchange an admittedly thrilling oppressiveness with a brighter surge. If anything, the group finds a new balance of sound that is romantic rather than crushing, and songs like "My Mother's Fatherly Father" compare favorably to the contemporaneous work of groups like For Against. Perhaps the most surprising cut in context is "Give Up Giving Up," where Heggie's distinct bass is complemented by synth bass as well. LTM's 2006 reissue, in a slightly curious move, complements the bonus cuts on Godhead by including the remaining songs from the limited release The Black Album. If nothing else, hearing the last songs done by the original lineup makes for a definite contrast with the newer songs on the main album, though "Missing the Kick" points the way forward clearly enough.


Formed: 1985 in Scotland

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s

Coming off like a dark hybrid of the Cocteau Twins and Joy Division/New Order, the Scottish band Lowlife was formed in 1985 by ex-Cocteau Twins (Garlands era) bassist Will Heggie and vocalist Craig Lorentson. Signed to the Nightshift label, the band debuted in 1985 with the six-song Rain EP. Their first full LP, Permanent Sleep, was released the following year. The Vain Delights 12" preceded the Diminuendo album in 1987, and another 12" release (Eternity Road) was out by the end of that year. 1988...
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San Antorium, Lowlife
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