Monday, June 7, 2010

Album Review: Smog – Knock Knock

Bill Callahan again worked with Jim O’Rourke on this 1999 album. It’s more expansive and diverse than previous album Red Apple Falls, indeed almost poppy, though it features a downright odd picture of a cat on the front!

The album opens with a sparse simple track, Let’s Move To The Country, consisting of Bill Callahan singing over a cello and a barely strummed guitar, but he follows this up with guitar anthem Held, which contains a great riff and beat. River Guard is a somewhat lengthy track, starting with the merest of guitar strums, before a wonderful piano part enters the mix. It’s a beautiful melody which builds up with percussion and more piano, before a great electric guitar before the end and gripping images in the lyrics (“stand there on a cliff with gooseflesh”).

He completely changes the mood with the first of his experiments featuring a children’s choir, the throwaway No Dancing, to which he sees fit to add heavy guitar and horns. He called this his album for teenagers, though I can’t imagine this being a teen anthem, however singalong it is! Teenage Spaceship is another brooding track with more gorgeous piano, while Cold Blooded Old Times is another uptempo, poppy tune featuring “the type of memories that turn your bones to glass” over strummed guitar.

After the moody Sweet Treat, Hit The Ground Running is another track featuring the children’s choir over a Velvet Underground-ish groove while Bill Callahan drawls agreeably through the song. The final 2 tracks return to the default Smog setting of sparseness. The album is a bit all over the place so it’s not a good one in terms of setting a mood, but it is probably his most trademark album in terms of the ‘Smog sound’.