Friday, January 1, 2010

Album Review: Bill Callahan - Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle

Bill Callahan has abandoned the Smog moniker he used to release albums under. His second album under his own name, Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, is recognisably him, but the instrumentation is a lot more realised than the Smog albums I’m familiar with, and is really quite warm.

The opening track, Jim Cain, is like a perfect Sunday afternoon song. Dominated by Callahan’s vocals (once described as being like tar!), it’s an easy, relaxed song, with some great lyrics like “I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again.” The following track, Eid Ma Clack Shaw, is a little more uptempo, driven by a string section. It’s essentially about his attempt to write a song mid-dream, but when he awoke all he was left with was the nonsensical phrase, Eid Ma Clack Shaw.

After such an upbeat beginning, the next track, The Wind and the Dove, is a little darker (sorry couldn’t resist), but the playing on this, and all the other tracks is really superb. Rococo Zephyr is a kind of duet, and is a little bamboozling lyrically apart from a clever play on the 'I was blind, now I can see' lyrical cliché (much beloved of Primal Scream amongst others) by the simple use of the words 'sort of'. Too Many Birds again has a very relaxed feel.

My Friend contains an acoustic guitar figure driving the song along, with Callahan’s dark as night delivery of the title. All Thoughts Are Prey to Some Beast reminds me musically of Arab Strap (a good thing) and the strings on this one render it compulsive listening. After the short interlude of Invocation of Ratiocination (?) the album comes full circle back to the feel of the opening track with the nine minute Faith/Void, which consists of beautiful music and little more than Callahan singing “It’s time to put God away” over and over. It’s almost like the sound of the eagle mentioned in the title, soaring and graceful.

All in all, a great album for a lazy Sunday afternoon, and one I fear is going to lead me back to all those Smog albums lurking in my collection…