Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Album Review: (smog) – Accumulation: None

This is not quite a new album for (smog) but a collection of old and hard-to-find tracks. There’s actually some pretty unlistenable noise experiments here (Astronaut, Floating, Hole In The Heart), with very little redeeming features. Thankfully there are some actual proper songs here.

A Hit uses heavy distorted guitar to deliver a kind of slacker anthem (“it’s not gonna be a hit so why even bother with it”). It’s really not as good as it sounds (which isn’t that good really) and not one which I’ll listen over and over to. The rest of the tracks are of varying quality. Spanish Moss is a fairly slight, acoustic strum, while Chosen One is a fuller sounding track, built around a piano. It’s interesting to hear how weedily Bill Callahan sings on these older tracks, light years away from his more recent material.

For those unfamiliar with Smog, listening closely to some of these tracks can make them seem disturbing. Real Live Dress features a great bit of guitar picking, sounding foreboding, like something off Doctor Came at Dawn. Musically it’s great, though the subject matter is creepy in the extreme. Came Blue has a going nowhere melody and creepy, drab atmosphere, but Little Girl Shoes is creepier still, as Bill Callahan sings deadpan about being “attracted to your little girl shoes” over some barely there, sparse music. Em, okay?

Later on there is an acoustic version of Cold Blooded Old Times (off Knock Knock) which is just bill and his rickety guitar, and it doesn’t really work, it’s like the song has had the life sucked out of it, they type of version that “turns your bones to glass.” It doesn’t work as well as the full band original version. On the other hand, White Ribbon is a song that was recorded for this collection and sounds pleasingly off-kilter. The melody is quite odd, and Bill’s phrasing is unconventional, though he is in fine voice, and the guitar playing on this one is really good. So against the odds the track works really well.

I Break Horses, featured here is a BBC session version of this track (originally on Kicking a Couple Around). It’s more fully realised than the original, though it starts out very sparsely, before building up to an almost anthem with the chorus, aided and abetted by some fine piano-playing.

It’s definitely not Bill Callahan’s best stuff, but worth checking out if you’re a fan for a handful of quality tunes.