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BEST NEW BAND Minneapolis 2001 -

The contrast isn't exactly "librarian by day, stripper by night," but the difference between Alan Sparhawk of Low and Alan Sparhawk of the Black Eyed Snakes is nonetheless comic. In his notoriously slow and achingly lovely pop trio Low, the Duluth singer-guitarist evokes spiritual struggle without preaching or screaming in tongues. In his beat-thwacking, voice-distorting, primal blooze threesome Black Eyed Snakes, he has something to tell us, and it goes a little something like this: "People, have you heard of a better day?" (He sounds a bit like Robert Duvall in The Apostle.) "I say again, have you ever heard of a better day? That's called hope." Then he'll fire into a Muddy Waters rocker or a Moby number, mercilessly slashing his guitar and stomping his feet from that traditional bluesman throne, the folding chair. Few in the audience will be sitting down, though: Black Eyed Snakes fans seem caught up in that old Minnesota yearning for a Southern blur of intemperance and contrition, Saturday night and Sunday morning rolled into one. At a recent Duluth benefit for the newsweekly the Ripsaw, the frontman rose to incite an already ecstatic throng in the NorShor Theatre mezzanine, climbing the drum kit to do a full forward flip flat onto his back. "I don't want people to start to wonder about me," he remarked later while packing up his gear. "Like, 'Will the real Alan Sparhawk please stand up?'" Yet even casual listeners, unaware of the Peter Parker/Spider-Man transformation, might respond to his heroic sense of release. That and a huge, bastardized beat that makes Jon Spencer sound like...Low.

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