Words: James Frostick

Sydney’s Low Life is back! The visceral punk legends have announced the March arrival of brand-new album Downer Edn, and offered a glimpse into the mess with lead track ‘The Pitts’. It’s a gritty and unflinching look at what it’s like to be down and out, but with enough fire in the gut to prevent you accepting your fate in the gutter.

It’s been a few years since Sydney band Low Life’s Dogging emerged in 2016 (belatedly, even then, when you consider Low Life’s previous release came out in 2011) but the album was impactful enough that it’s remained in the minds of numerous folks. Low Life’s brutal and tattered interpretation of punk (guttural, menacing, defeatist) still is incredibly memorable, so it’s no surprise to me that news of a second full-length is stirring up anticipation. This week the crew announced the March release of new record Downer Edn (pronounced ‘Edition’) and gave us a engrossing taster of what’s to come – the record’s first track ‘The Pitts’. The band, which has fluctuated in numbers from three-piece to the current five-member iteration, has spent the past two years piecing this record together. Most of this time would have been given over to dealing with their own lives while wrangling their core inspirations (desperation, neuroses, trauma, survival, hooliganism, violence, hope, rejuvenation, Sydney’s social scope – as per press material) into what promises to be a dark but redeeming opus – dented and scarred but resilient.

Much like all the tracks on Dogging, ‘The Pitts’ is immediate and undeniable. The key difference is that the production is a bit more refined, giving the song a sharper edge with which to cut. The original trio of Mitch Tolman, Cristian O’Sullivan and Greg Alfaro have filled in the ranks with Dizzy Daldal and Yuta Masumura of Oily Boys and Orion, and the added weight bolsters the track’s immediacy. Truly, the assemblage of sounds is cacophonous – a maelstrom of discontented noise, a churning mixture of low-end throb and a savage guitar sear. It’s a roiling cauldron of stepped-in fluid, filled with kicked-up sediment and boiled until potent. As the song’s title alludes, ‘The Pitts’ is about the down-and-out moments where desperation is rife and life is grim. Clawing out of the chasm ain’t easy, and those looking down are only too eager to take advantage of the abundant misery below. Would you sell your soul for a bit of sunshine? What would it cost? Mitch’s vocals warn about the predicament – get hooked and “once you’ve had a taste you’ll be begging on your knees.” The song’s different elements coalesce into a drone, overlaid with Mitch asking “who owns you” – repeated ad nauseam. It’s an unsettling question, to be sure.

Low Life has always been a band that railed against superficiality and has been unflinching in its interpretation of the world and the state it’s in. With everything happening in Australia and abroad, it’s timely that Downer Edn is arriving now. While it might not be the most joyous record ever created, I’d put some money down that there will be some relatable sentiments to get around, at the very least.

Downer Edition is out on March 15 on Goner Records in North America, Alter in Europe, and Cool Death in Australia.