Low Volts Oh My Stars (self-released)
When the public first met Tim Lowman's one-man-band, Low Volts, the local songwriter sounded like one sad son-of-a-bitch. His wife-to-be had recently dumped him for another man, and in the first track on Low Volts' debut album, last year's Twist Shake Grind Break, Lowman poured his sorrows into a loud, dirty blues-rock banger called "I Cried My Guts Out."
Well, it looks like Lowman's moved on. While previous songs found him haggard and shaken, on his new album, Oh My Stars, I picture him decked out in a leather jacket and Ray-Bans, smiling mischievously as he runs a switchblade comb through his pomaded hair. In 11 tracks, he twists the throttle on his slide-guitar licks and lets out a playful croon, sounding like some kind of twisted rocker from the '50s.
Of course, Lowman's always had a cool, cocksure way about him. (Ever seen that YouTube video of him doing 115 mph down the freeway on a Harley— one-handed?) He'll probably always be a sucker for the ladies, too. On the bluesy "Girl in Cafe," Lowman drives himself mad wondering about a mysterious beauty he keeps encountering at a diner—it's like a missed-connections ad in song.
Even if he's dialed down the distortion, as he does on Oh My Stars, Lowman's songs still have a raw, dirty bite. Opener "Shake in the Knees" captures the feel of a long, breezy motorcycle ride with palm-muted riffs and a crude drum-machine beat punctuated by the slams of a trash can. "Can't Deny" puts a freaky twist on '50s pop as the lyrics veer into S&M / stalker territory: "There's no use in putting up a fight / I got you tied up to the bed just right." With "Crippled Cat," Lowman comes up with a brand-new dance, though it probably wouldn't sit well with the American Bandstand set: "Just raise your crooked claws in the air," he sings, "and scratch away 'cause life ain't fair!"
Occasionally, I wanted to hear the heartbroken Lowman again—for emotional and sonic power, nothing on Oh My Stars quite rises to the level of the remarkable "I Cried My Guts Out." But while Lowman isn't very sad anymore, he's still the same old Lowman: a badass rocker with a wicked imagination and a taste for crude thrills. And who doesn't love a guy like that?