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    Wednesday, January 10, 2007

    Most of my fantasies: Smog MP3s


    Photo by Luisa Cinta

    I'm giving serious thought to turning this into a Smog tribute blog. I've already said my share about Bill Callahan's music (here, here, here), but then I'll lower my guard and its quiet graces will ensnare me all over again. The culprit this time is 1997's Red Apple Falls, an old favorite that I'm rediscovering whole new wealth in. When I first got it, I listened to it loyally for at least a week before finally moving on. And sure enough this time around, it's all I've been willing to listen to for the last three days and counting.

    The adjective that the album most calls to mind for me is "crisp." There's a crispness in Callahan's baritone, a rich clarity and purpose that give his words their continual power. His music follows that lead, also tending to err on the side of simplicity. By paring his compositions down to the essential instruments, he wrings the most out of every note and chord change. The other main asset is his lyrics, which may be the easiest and most foolish element to underestimate. Another great example of economy, Callahan's verses are simultaneously direct and cryptic, spare and bountiful. They read simply, but collectively, they're overloaded with moments of surprising, dismantling truth.

    Consider, for example, on "I Was A Stranger," when he sings, "In the last town, you should've seen what I was.../ I was worse than a stranger/ I was well-known." Or among the rare upbeat bounce of "Ex-Con," when he admits, "Jean jacket and tie/ Feel like such a lie/ When I go to your house, I feel like I'm casin' the joint." But as with all Smog albums, there's always one lyric that hits harder than everything else, rings truer and echoes louder. That moment on Red Apple Falls comes for me on "To Be Of Use," when Callahan solemnly laments, "Most of my fantasies are to be of use.../ To be of some hard, simple, undeniable use/ Oh, like a spindle/ or oh, like a candle/ or oh, like a horseshoe/ or oh, like a corkscrew." It didn't strike me until the fifth or sixth listen, but as with all things Smog, it's a sentiment that promises to linger through the weeks to come.

    * MP3: "Ex-Con" - Smog from Red Apple Falls
    * MP3: "To Be Of Use" - Smog from Red Apple Falls [Buy it]

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    Comments on "Most of my fantasies: Smog MP3s"

     

    Blogger Wayne said ... (4:01 AM) : 

    Seeing Smog in 2 weeks so I'm looking forward to that even more now after reading your piece.

     

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