Thursday, June 17, 2010

Album Review: Smog – Dongs of Sevotion

Smog’s first album post-Jim O’Rourke came out in 2000, and is (even for them) a strangely disjointed listen. Bill Callahan has forsaken the simplicity of earlier albums like Red Apple Falls with a more ‘all over the place’ feel.

The album opens with the cheap synths of Justice Aversion, before starting in earnest with Dress Sexy At My Funeral. This track borrows a little in feel from Knock Knock’s Cold Blooded Old Times but turns into a classic Velvet Underground style grind drawl grind, Callahan delivering a great Lou Reed drawl. It’s a great idea for a song, and lyrically is very direct, leaving little to the imagination, the central message being that his wife should behave flirtatiously as a tribute to him (!). A classic.

Strayed sees the reurn of the cheap synths, and is pretty much a simple groove for the whole song, a little like the previous track slowed-down. The Hard Road features distorted guitar, a bit like this album’s No Dancing (Knock Knock). Easily Led is a distinct improvement, a pretty piano-led tune with the merest hint of percussion. It’s kind of a cross between the vulnerability of To Be of Use (Red Apple Falls) and the poignancy of River Guard (Knock Knock), though at barely 3 minutes it’s a little short, leaving you longing for more.

Bloodflow on the other hand outstays its welcome somewhat. It’s a complete change of mood, like many of the other tracks it’s mainly a simple groove for the seven minutes that it lasts, with backing choruses and thrilling changes in tempo thrown into the mix. Nineteen is a ghoulish, drowsy yet haunted sparse ballad complete with spooky wailing while Distance creeps along similarly until halfway through when the song explodes into life with synths, electric guitar, backing vocals and drums. Again there’s a particular Lou Reed sound to this track, though in common with many other songs it’s a little overlong at nearly eight minutes

A couple of long, sparse, downbeat tunes follow (Devotion, Cold Discovery) before the funereal yet triumphant trudge of Permanent Smile. Despite numerous misgivings on my part, the album does get under your skin, though it’s not the strongest Smog album.