Release Date: 2 September 2008
It’s been a decade since Rhode Island’s The Low Anthem released their breakout second LP Oh My God, Charlie Darwin. The album trawled a sombre and indelible beauty from America’s troubled waters, and struck a deep chord with listeners. The band’s 2008 self-released version of the disc spread like wildfire via word-of-mouth audience response, eventually attracting the attention of Bella Union and Nonesuch Records. Oh My God, Charlie Darwin was licensed, remastered, reissued and traveled the globe, sweeping the DIY minded Low Anthem along with it. From the ragtag house show hopping, MySpace friending, bar gigging circuits to the venerated stages of Glastonbury, Lollapalooza, Newport Folk Festival, and the BBC.
“At first we were pushing the album out into the world, but then at some point we passed a threshold where the album took over, and started pulling us along on its ride,” the group’s co-founder Ben Knox Miller said. “Suddenly we were trying to keep up with it.”
A brief survey of late-2000s American popular culture offers no immediate clue as to why an earnest, and largely acoustic folk-rock album would so dramatically rise up from America’s underground – and perhaps no-one was more surprised by this than the band itself. “We definitely worked hard, and we had a lot of luck, but the response was overwhelming,” Miller observed.
Ten years on, Oh My God, Charlie Darwin still provides a captivating and emotionally resonant listening experience. Around the time of its initial release, Miller described the album as a treatise on “environmental decay,” “social de-evolution,” and “the death of morality.” One hardly needs to be reminded that these issues have significantly worsened in recent times.
As The Low Anthem continue to explore new sounds, the reissue of Oh My God, Charlie Darwin celebrates a step along that path. “In some ways the reissue is a bookend,” Miller reflected. “Our sound has changed. The people have changed. The people who haven’t changed have changed. For better and worse our success has been yolked to this group of songs. Ten years on we’re taking a moment to be grateful for that, and to revisit these songs — to see what’s still there. It also closes a chapter. Maybe something in this completes an idea. Maybe this clears the slate for the future.”