Between the unrelenting downstroke of Johnny Ramone and the overdriven Chuck Berry chords of Steve Jones, the catalog of trademark punk rock guitar styles isn't especially hefty, with the desire to do less with more usually serving as the guiding principle. Australia's Low Life are having none of that; the groggy rage and doomstruck melodies of their songs are inescapably punk rock, but when it comes to guitars, they've thrown off minimalism and gone entirely the other way. On 2019's Downer Edn (that's short for "edition," not "eden," though that might also have been a good title for this), guitarists Mitch Tolman, Kerem Daldal, and Yuta Matsumura have layered their parts into a massive wall of post-punk sound, and while Joy Division-era Bernard Sumner and PiL-era Keith Levene are the most obvious influences, any number of players who have drawn cold, metallic noise from their collection of stomp boxes inform these performances. The result is an album that sounds towering and ominous, and if this is a long way from the accepted template for punk, it turns out to be a perfect vehicle for Tolman's bilious lyrics, as he laments many unfortunate aspects of contemporary culture with liberal use of what is tactfully known as the Eff Word. (The furious pound of bassist Cristian O'Sullivan and drummer Greg Alfaro also goes a long way towards focusing the message.) Honesty and anger are Low Life's operative emotions, and this music never goes by half measures. There's something artful yet brutal about Downer Edn that's unique and keenly effective, and though this sometimes plays as punk rock for smart people, the unpretentious emotions at center stage are relatable to just about anyone alive in the 2010s.
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming