Get to Know Lowest of the Low

Lowest of the Low
This Morning

Lowest of the Low is a beloved Toronto band that's been around since the early 1990s, though they are woefully underappreciated south of the border. When I say beloved, consider that their 1991 album Shakespeare My Butt often shows up on lists of the top 20 Canadian rock albums of all time. To celebrate a recent appearance on the Canadian Broadcasting System show "This Morning," the band has released an eponymous and free five-track sampling of back catalogue material on the Website NoiseTrade.

Lowest of the Low is frequently billed as an indie rock post-punk band, whatever that might mean. I think that's possibly because lead singer Ron Hawkins has a voice that has a touch of Billy Bragg roughness to it, though that's intentional and mainly his is just a very strong one. The fact that the band's most famous record is puckishly but politely titled Shakespeare My Butt is a pretty good indication that Lowest of the Low isn't really a punk band of any sort: pre, present, or post. Theirs is actually a very melodic sound and Hawkins' vocals are clear and tuneful, not snarly or off-key.

Two of the selections come from Shakespeare, including "Bleed a Little While Tonight," which did well on the Canadian pop charts. The only blood split in the song is that of yearning. It is catchy and has an easy dance feel that's more sashay than body slam. "Rosy and Grey" has crystalline clear electric guitar lines the likes of which someone like Jerry Garcia used to lay down (when he wasn't being sloppy). This too is a love song of sorts, though there is a (possibly) naughty double entendre embedded within. 

The other three tracks are from the band's 2017 release Do the Right Now. My favorite is "Something to Believe In," which opens with Hawkins issuing an earnest plea in a voice controlled and slightly louder than his guitar. This is the kind of song I really like: small opening, slow build, and go big, yet remain controlled and tuneful. The video for "Powerlines" is a pretty neat aerial tour of The Six (a Toronto nickname referencing the six "cities" that make up Toronto). The vid is actually a bit out of character, as the eagle's eye view is usually high above the streets and features that make our unnamed observer dream of a woman named Caroline. It's a great tune, so I'll overlook that and a few forced rhymes. "California Gothic" rounds off the EP.

I hope I don't offend anyone in saying this, but to me Lowest of the Low ought to be labeled an indie/folk rock ensemble. But it doesn't matter what tag you spray, Lowest of the Low is a fine band that deserves attention on both sides of Lake Ontario.

Rob Weir

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