on 2 May 2000
I arrived late at the Smog party, if you could call it that, more of a drink yourself to death and then laugh at your misfortune style affair, but I made it nonetheless. 'Knock Knock' was a piece of abstract wonder from last year's glut of records that despite its instant turn offs to the masses - songs of prison wardens and bad childhoods to name but few- was totally rewarding. So I looked forward to the follow up with great anticipation, the title was something of a reassurance straight away, Callahan's dry wit was seeping onto the cover yet again and what unfolds inside does not disappoint. It's a much bigger record than the last, in length and also in content and scope. The 'poppy' nature of 'Held' has disappeared and made way for sparse guitar/ vocal centred arrangements. Callahan's voice is still as perfectly droll as ever, but it's the humour that grabs you the most- he would never hold a girl to the floor like that, would he? The disturbingly titled 'bloodflow' is this year's 'No dancing' with cheerleaders instead of children's choir but just as effective in the pace and distance it covers. I could write forever about this album, knowing that it would only fall on a few appreciative ears, perhaps that is how Callahan would like it. To those who have entered his macabre world this is another fantastic Smog record, to the unconverted this is your baptism waiting patiently with a rusty blade and a knowing grin. Go get some in...
on 8 January 2011
A fantastic album, a long term favourite.
He scratches at the sad sick underbelly of white trailerpark trash america, and it is not pretty.
'Devotion' is a bitter song about the gossips who ruin lives, I used to work with these awful people.
'Bloodflow',a great upbeat song about chopping up your neighbours, features the best rhyming couplet ever.
" No time for a tet a tete, can I borrow your machete' sung by the Bloodettes cheer leader troupe.
There are two harrowing songs about rape,
And the crowning glory, 'Distance' about a serial killer with Bill Callahan sounding like a ball of pure fury. A genuinely terrifying song.
Not a nice album for dinner parties or inlaws. But fine with a bottle late at night. Highly reccomended.
on 20 April 2000
Bill Callahan has been going for a while now, but it was only with last years superb Knock Knock that he finally started to get the recognition he deserves with his "band" Smog (basically Callahan, his studio and a collection of mates).
Smog's army of dedicated followed awaited Dongs of Sevotion with bated breath to see if success will have spoiled Mr Misery...but no, still there are the viscious lyrics wrapped in honeycomb tunes all stripped down to the bare basics of a song. The sales of Knock Knock have obviously allowed Bill the scope for a bit more experimentation - he even uses a bunch of cheerleaders for backing vocals on "Bloodflow", but as the song title suggests, it's not the usual kind of chanting they'd do! The stunning "Dress sexy at my funeral" sets the tone as Bill gets all frisky in his laid back way and both "Devotion" and "Permanent Smile" break new sonic ground for Smog. Always deep, never boring, despite the awful title "Songs of Devotion" is the second great alt.rock album of 2000 (after Lambchop's Nixon)
on 17 June 2010
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.