After some time working on different side projects and within other industries, the Low reunited in 2000 to rectify that fact. What they hadn’t counted on was that their legend continued growing during those six years, to the point that they were being hailed by the press as returning heroes and had been elevated to genuine rock star status in certain markets (special shout-out to Buffa-LOW!).
The band played several euphoric reunion shows on either side of the border, including an open-air Toronto jamboree in the summer of 2001 with spiritual mentor Billy Bragg and kindred CanRock spirits The Weakerthans. The camaraderie of those gigs led to a creative explosion that yielded not only the stellar hybrid live/studio album Nothing Short Of A Bullet later that same year, but also their third long player. Sordid Fiction debuted in 2004, with production duties handled by Toronto rock legend Ian Blurton.
The former captured many of Shakespeare’s brightest moments but with the added benefit of tighter, road-tested arrangements. The latter is a perfect blend of the heart and energy found on the previous two full-lengths and contains some of the band’s strongest tunes ever, including “A Casual Overdose”, “The Last Recidivist” and “Concave”. It also introduced a new lineup, with Dylan Parker inheriting bass duties and longtime collaborator Lawrence Nichols becoming a full-fledged member.
Lowest of the Low supported Sordid Fiction extensively when it was released by MapleMusic, including a jaunt overseas for a series of showcase gigs throughout the United Kingdom. They also performed at the 2007 Grey Cup and logged a sweaty performance as part of The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern’s 60th birthday celebrations. They pressed pause for a few years while Hawkins and Stanley worked on their latest solo albums, and Alexander continued to rack up impressive Digital Effects bona fides in the film and television world.
The band were inducted into the Canadian Indie Music Hall of Fame in 2008, and weren’t active again until 2010 when they released a remastered 20th anniversary edition of Shakespeare My Butt… with a companion DVD full of archival footage and a newly-recorded instrumental score by Ron and Steve. They capped the activities for this release in March 2011 with a triumphant headlining show at Toronto’s venerable Massey Hall. It’s a life goal for all Canadian musicians, but it held special significance for Steve who had dreamt of treading the boards since working there as an usher in his youth.
In 2013, Stanley chose to leave the band and focus on his own projects. The remaining roster played some shows as “The Low UK”, a playful nod to many groups over the years who had to change their names for legal reasons. They eventually reverted to using the full moniker, and Brian MacMillan assumed lead guitar duties. In late 2015, the band released two new singles digitally: “The Kids Are All Wrong” and “In The Blink Of An Eye” as a signal that the machine was stirring again.
2017 heralded another album, Do The Right Now, featuring a mixture of cracking new material and two absurdly hooky ‘lost’ songs from the Shakespeare era. Even with the inclusion of the older tunes, the entire record served as a thematic treatise on the importance of living in the moment. Hawkins, Alexander, Nichols, and MacMillan were joined in the studio by drummer Jody Brumell and journeyman bassist Derrick Brady, while Michael McKenzie (formerly of Universal Honey) handled lead guitar duties on all ensuing tour dates.
The Low put an end to that ‘independent’ qualifier in 2018 by inking a deal with Warner Music Canada, which not only didn’t cause the sky to fall but led to the release of Shakespeare My Box!!…, a career-spanning vinyl retrospective. The sumptuously packaged set included all four studio albums, an extra record full of new material, previously unreleased or commercially unavailable tracks, demos, remixes and live cuts, plus a poster, stickers, hand-written lyric sheets and a beautiful full-colour booklet bursting at the seams with pics and ephemera from the Low’s plentiful archives.
That brings us to today, where the band (now featuring full time members McKenzie on lead guitar and The Weakerthans’ Greg Smith handling the bottom end) are about to unleash AgitPop, a bristling, buzzing collection of modern day protest songs that harken back to Hawkins’ earliest days as a writer of ‘capital P’ political tunes. Its 14 ridiculously hooky yet heartfelt cuts, produced by Grammy-winner David Bottrill (Tool, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins) and recorded at Toronto’s Union Sound Company with Chris Stringer and Darren McGill, serve as the most melodic manifesto since Nick Lowe penned “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” in 1974. From Lowe to the Low; it’s (r)evolution, baby.