Disappears – Low: Live In Chicago

2 out of 5

Label: Maple Death Records

Produced by: Mike Lust (live recording, mixing)

This isn’t a bad album, by any means, taking into account that it’s both a complete cover album – of Bowie’s Low – and a live set. But it definitely falls into the bucket of being more of a cool idea than something I’ll actively want to listen to. Because undoubtedly the superior version of Low is the original, and while Disappears definitely inserts some of themselves into this material (you can really hear it on the moodier moments – the opening of A New Career in Town; the B-side instrumental tracks), it’s still not really a Disappears album, it’s a novelty. This isn’t a re-imagining of the tracks, excepting that all of the electronics are done by dudes playing guitars; this is cool, but it’s not a great reason to seek this out beyond that novelty or curiosity. That’s the major reason for the rating, because if you consider that it’s neither the best or necessarily even equal edition of the original material, or a Disappears set to which you’re likely to return, what’s the need for it?

I bet this was really fun live, for what it’s worth. As part of a Bowie tribute at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chicago, if you were attending, you knew what you were in for, and Disappears delivered a challenging take on that – Bowie’s mash-up of guitar pop and ambience and Eno-experimentalism. And so some of that fun can translate, especially after the group warms up, starting with What In the World – probably the best of the stuff with vocals – and then getting more into tracks that don’t require Brian Case to find a vocal style that’s not to be poorly compared to Bowie, or when the group leans a little more into just rocking out, which happens on most tracks’ conclusions. (Though they kind of botch the boogie of the album’s most accessible song, Be My Wife.)

The Warszawa material and beyond is interesting in how accurate it is, with Weeping Wall getting top marks. Interestingly, I’d say the experience lacks the more fitting juxtaposition of the Bowie version when it’s minused of the synths; meaning the transition from rock to ambience just feels like a different set, as opposed to an inversion of the album’s first half’s moods. But these are excellent covers, and more in Disappears wheelhouse, and probably maintain the best sound quality – which otherwise has the flat, clippy hallmarks of a live performance.

If you were there, perhaps this is a good memory. And it’s something to give a pass to as a curiosity, but I have to doubt it will land in a frequent playlist, and makes one question the need for it beyond documentation of the experience.