In 1996, Chart Magazine, an earlier incarnation of this same publication, set out to name the best Canadian albums of all time. The editors polled readers, musicians, and industry types to find our most beloved. Coming in at number 10 was Shakespeare My Butt..., the landmark 1991 debut from Toronto folk-punks The Lowest of the Low. The album would chart even higher on subsequent polls in 2000 and 2005, minting the band's place in the CanCon canon.
The band went quiet shortly after, emerging only for select reunion dates. So when we heard chatter that Ron Hawkins and company were back and had pumped out not one, but two new tracks, Chart Attack had to have them. Listen to "The Kids Are All Wrong" and "In The Blink Of An Eye" below. They'll be free to download tomorrow.
In light of the new material, we caught up with Hawkins about what brought both feet out of hiatus, the new tracks, and why the kids aren't, in fact, all wrong.
Chart Attack: You guys had recently regrouped and played a few shows as Low UK before deciding to come back proper. You also thought maybe it was time to pack it up for good. Why, in your mind, had you reached that crossroads?
There is a certain shorthand we have — the kind of shared experience that you can only have with people you’ve ridden the rollercoaster with. I missed the frantic energy and shambolic joy — the sweat, the filth and the fury.
Could we carry on as Lowest of the Low or should we just close the chapter and end the book? So, then some soul searching commenced. We were offered some bigger, more public shows, and with the addition of longtime comrade and Low member Lawrence Nichols and new guitarist Brian MacMillan we decided to move forward. Considering that it was 4 out of 5 members and that I was the lead singer and principal songwriter of the band from its inception, we banked on that being a true Low experience for anyone who came out.
What did you miss most about The Lowest of the Low? Why did you need it back in your lives?
I’ve grown up playing with David Alexander (Low drummer). Our first band together was Social Insecurity (1983/84 punk band). Having spent upwards of 250 shows a year on the road with him in the early Low days, and having toured and recorded with Dylan Parker and Lawrence Nichols repeatedly, the Low is like a second home to me. There is a certain shorthand we have — the kind of shared experience that you can only have with people you’ve ridden the rollercoaster with. I missed the frantic energy and shambolic joy — the sweat, the filth and the fury.
It’s been a long time since the band has released new material. Has that process — writing, recording — changed any? Have the band dynamics changed?
Well the writing has always been simply a matter of me writing songs and then either recording them solo, with The Do Good Assasins, or with the Low. I don’t specifically write with the Low in mind, though there are styles and types of songs that I think we excel at. As for the band dynamics I’d have to say that with Steve’s departure and the return of Lawrence and the addition of Brian there has been a certain breath of fresh air and a renewed electricity to the band vibe. I’m not laying that at Steve’s feet, I just think that after many years a band, like any long-term relationship, can get in a certain rut or start to ossify in a way. I have to say honestly, I think this is the best Lowest of the Low that has ever existed. And the energy and electricity in the studio was inspiring.
Why were these the two tracks to break that radio silence? Do they say something especially timely? Something you’ve been holding onto?
This is a sarcastic letter to those people in every generation who decry youthful optimism, idealism and the revolutionary energy that accompanies it.
So why are the kids all wrong?
They’re not. That’s the point. This is a sarcastic letter to those people in every generation who decry youthful optimism, idealism and the revolutionary energy that accompanies it. I’m 50 physically, but I’m still 18 aspirationally. I still believe in human compassion, creativity and revolution. I love the Bob Dylan quote, “He who isn’t busy being born, is busy dying.” That’s 150% true. I came up with the title "The Kids Are All Wrong" first and foremost because I thought it was a cool take on The Who’s "The Kids Are Alright." I guess I could’ve left it there, but I reverse engineered it so it could have something to say as well.
What do you think the kids have especially right? What are they or we or whomever “the kids” refers to uniquely good at now?
I think being a kid means being impetuous, being optimistic, being self-obsessed and being resilient. I think all those traits are powerful evolutionary forces and great creative weapons in the fight against the dull grey status quo. Of course as you get older you need to curb the self-obsession (which makes you more graceful), but you need to hold on for dear life to the optimism and resilience. If not, you may as well just dig a grave and jump into it. What kids are good at now is what they’ve always been good at... pissing off their parents. And good for them!