Who would have thought that Charles Darwin, the bearded Englishmen so universally admired and reviled, would make such a compelling figure for a hymn? Of course, “Oh My God Charlie Darwin,” the title track for The Low Anthem’s second album, isn’t a hymn per se. You won’t find this haunting tale nor it’s companions on the album bound and hidden in a pew rack, though this hasn’t stopped the New England band’s fans from claiming their songs as irreligious spirituals.
Set the sails I feel the winds a’stirring
Toward the bright horizon set the way
Cast your reckless dreams upon our Mayflower
Haven from the world and her decay
And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
Fighting for a system built to fail
Spooning water from their broken vessels
As far as I can see there is no land
There exists this tension within the band’s lyrics: our desired salvation remains just out of reach. The system itself, bound to decay, will ultimately betray our dreams of something more beautiful than what currently surrounds us.
The Low Anthem’s gorgeous harmonies and falsettos matched with too many instruments to count only heighten reality’s struggle with hope throughout these songs. And while much of the time the band sounds resigned to natural selection’s final say, there are moments, like this one from “Cage the Songbird,” that allow for more mystical questions.
This album has quickly become my favorite of the year, one that can be returned to repeatedly for echos of the beautiful tension most of us live within, often unaware.
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin (Official Video)