Liam Butler’s fashionably late review of last year’s Bill Callahan release. Danke schon.
When I first read what the title of Bill Callahan’s next release I took a deep breath. “Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle” sounded at first both wistful and inane (perfectly suited to Callahan’s style). Ever since hearing Smog (Bill Callahan’s previous moniker) on some probably now defunct magazine compilation in my early adolescence I’ve been hooked on his dark introspection (Drinking At The Dam), bawdy humour (Dress Sexy at my Funeral) and intricate and complex character creations (The Prison Guard). Callahan often draws inspirations from unique personal revelation, growth and reminiscence (). Why is SIWWAE my album of the year? Well, he’s grown a beard which can only be a good thing. However, if lush arrangements and warm instrumentation combined with melancholic and often sombre tones is your thing, then this is the album for you or certainly me anyway. This album will not rock you, this album will not make you twist and shout. It might make you bob your head though and that will be more than enough because too much movement might render your listening to the album a waste. The opener ‘Jim Cain’ will endear fans of ‘A River Isn’t Too Much To Love’ with the simple chord progression and Callahan’s stream of consciousness “I started out in search of ordinary things, how much of a tree really bends in a wind?”. The second song ‘Eid Ma Clack Shaw’ stands out, like a key ingredient, perhaps like red currant jelly does on a venison steak. A song about the memory of one has been lost and the impossibility of shaking a memory, especially in dreams. “Love is the king of the beasts and a beast must kill to eat” the beautiful imagery of love’s destructive and animal instincts. I’m not entirely sure what ‘Rococo Zephyr’ is about but it works, a dainty little number. ‘All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beast’ is a dark reflection of how falling prey to cynicism and negativity in the aftermath of destruction is a lonely and thankless path. ‘Faith/Void’ is an almost 10 minute mantra with Callahan singing not much more than “It’s time to put god away” drawing on his leanings toward atheism which he also does in a previous song ‘Mother of the World’ “god is a word and the argument ends there. Many of the reasons I love Smog/Bill Callahan and his ilk. This album is so fucking good I’m going to go upstairs right now and listen to it now and leave this summary somewhat conclusively….
And that is, I believe, the end of the New Year. Apart from Chinese New Year, which is at the end of the