16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
Oldham does it again, 17 Jan. 2005
Will Oldham is a very rare thing in this day and age - an artist of genuine calibre who seems unafraid to continue making music to satisfy nobody but himself. He is by nature a fickle beast - after ten years of what some refer to as 'alt-country', his definitive brand of under-produced acoustic based recordings, his last album was something of a curveball, employing a full session band to revisit fifteen of Palace Brothers 'greatest hits and give them a polished Nashville sheen. The gamble paid off - Oldham managed to prove himself an extraordinary songwriter, the songs power holding up even without the mood inducing melancholy which the lo-fi backings had managed to instill on the original versions of the songs.
And so Oldham's decision to team up with long-term friend Matt Sweeney - ex-Slint and Billy Corgan's ill-fated Zwan - may take some by surprise. Oldham's major contribution here is lyrical, as he takes a back seat and allows Sweeney to come up with the music. For the most part the results are fantastic.
Anybody who has heard any of Will Oldham's previous work will know that it does not always make for easy listening, and the eleven selections on Superwolf are no exception. Oldham uses his whole palette on this album. Opener 'My Home Is The Sea' is something of a false start, Oldham has deliberately placing the most accessible and best produced track at the start of the album to lull the listener into a false sense of security. 'Beast For Thee' follows, its lush sounding arpeggios recalling the sound of Mogwai. The harmony vocals provided on this track by Sweeney are exquisitiley arranged, as they are throughout the album.
'What Are You?' shows Oldham's more comical side, as he threatens to 'take you over my knee, and spank you mercilessly.''Goat and Ram' is the track which sounds most like Palace Music, its gentle drum backing given it something of a tribal feel, before giving way to something similar to Slint.
'Bed Is For Sleeping' is possibly the standout track on this album. It's lyrics are typical wistful Oldham:-'where are you going? why are you leaving? Left on a walkway, to swallow my grieving?'
Oldham and Sweeney save their greatest epic until it is alomost time for them to leave - 'Blood Embrace' is a brooding piece almost eight minutes in length, its mood summed up within Sweeney's opening guitar hook. The lyrics find Oldham questioning the stability of his love :- 'does she test me does she know? that i would sooner turn and go? and find another if that is what she'd have me do.'
In the past, Oldham has tended to lighten the mood with his closing tracks - Rich Wife Full Of Happiness on Ease Down the Road and Hard Life from Master and Everyone. Not so here - 'I Gave You' is a bitter lament to somebody who has wasted all that they have had provided for them, Oldham cursing the person who he has 'given ten lives, when you wasted twenty.' The last lines of the album are genuinely haunting with Oldham stating ' You have vanished into the air, the air in which I must live.' As the last lines of the album fade, the sense of loss which has pervaded the whole album from the opening ' I have often said, I would like to be dead' stays with the listener.
Somehow, despite the heavy content of the lyrics, Sweeney's music is a perfectly fitting accompaniment and the two elements together make this an album that is really worth playing over and over again. It's only the third week of the year, and Oldham and Sweeney have already provided us with a serious contender for album of 2005.