Friday, February 26, 2010

Album Review: Smog – The Doctor Came At Dawn


Smog’s 1996 album picks up from where previous album Wild Love left off. The cover is quite similar to Arab Strap’s debut, or is it the other way round? First track You Moved In is filled with foreboding strings and tinkling piano, along with carefully plucked guitar. Bill Callahan sounds less than thrilled at the prospect of the unidentified “you” moving in! Somewhere in the Night is more uptempo. At just over 2 minutes long is driven by a slightly off tune acoustic guitar and handclaps, and works as it only would for Smog.

Lize is a slower, well-constructed song based around a slowly picked electric guitar, as Callahan puns “they don’t make Lize (or lies) like they used to”. Then Spread Your Bloody Wings is darker, with a muddier, less clear melody, a bit more of an ambient piece.

After a short interlude, Everything You Touch Becomes A Crutch is faster before stalker centrepiece, All Your Women Things. It’s just short of seven minutes and is fairly epic, along similar lines to Red House Painters’ Medicine Bottle, both musically and lyrically. It’s the age old tale of love gone bad, Callahan painstakingly etches out every detail of all the aforementioned “women things” which used to be scattered round his room. The killer line is at the end, when we discover “it’s been 7 years and the thought of your name still makes me weak at the knees”.

A total departure for the following track, Whistling Teapot, which Bill Callahan sings in a totally different voice, stretching towards falsetto at times. Could almost be a different singer only for the fact that the track drips with loathing. Four Hearts In A Can echoes Lize in melody, but adds strings and is more wistful and yearning. It would have been a nice ending but this is Smog, so the final track, Hangman Blues is a suitably stark, barely-there song, filled with pauses.