Though a slot at the Gigantic Music showcase at November’s CMJ threatens the band’s relative anonymity, Norway’s the Low Frequency in Stereo is still the coolest band you’ve probably never heard of. The group’s predominantly instrumental Travelling Ants Who Got Eaten By Moskus (2004) was a deft mix of layered ambience — the ethereal “Stargazer” and “Hazelwood” — surf-rock, ’50s rock, free-jazz, and swampy lo-fi funk. The combination was rewarding, if a little schizophrenic.
On The Last Temptation ofThe Low Frequency in Stereo, we still hear a band that likes to indulge its varying tastes, but things are streamlined a bit, and the better for it. Yes, there are significantly more vocals, and with all these words comes not confusion — they sing in remarkably clear English — but energy. “Jimmy Legs” and “Red Flag” burs with the punk spirit and scathing guitar lines of fellow Scandinavians the Hives, and “Axes” has the appealing, though unbelievable, sound of the Rolling Stones jamming with The in Sound from the Way Out-era Beastie Boys. And “21,” with dueling vocals and an organ snaking through the guitar and synth fuzz, sounds like a Doors outtake spliced with a film noir soundtrack. Hard to explain, wonderful to listen to.
They do falter along the way — the title track noodles a few minutes too long; scaled back are the droning but beautiful tracks;and “Bahamas” is too mimetic, going nowhere, slowly — but for their extravagances it’s difficult to fault them. If it takes the Killers to remind us that sometimes cool is manufactured, an album like The Last Temptationis there to show us that maybe the path to musical sincerity is playing everything you’re good at.