Thursday, June 30, 2011

Bill Callahan - Apocalypse

Bill Callahan’s only fault may lie in his consistency. His latest solo effort, Apocalypse is neither better or worse from the last or the one before that, and occasionally that can be a bit frustrating.

Because after nearly twenty years of doing this, you’d expect him to shit or get off the pot in terms of making an accessible record that garnishes a bigger audience.

That’s my issue-not Bill’s-and for a dude that’s admitted admiration for Jandek, I should probably just forget about Callahan’s IRA and just accept that he’s an introverted artist that digs a slow pace in both his tempos and career.

The story arc on Apocalypse is the same as any other Bill Callahan release with references to man and country and the occasional hints of love. Everything is delivered via Callahan’s mysterious baritone and simple chord structure.

It usually begins with Bill strumming an acoustic guitar, then a barely there drum pattern and finally some electric ambience thanks to Matt Kinsey’s electric guitar and analog/digital delay pedal. In between, there’s room for a harmonica, flute or keyboard during some points, but otherwise, this is as Americana as you can get.

Speaking of, the worse song on Apocalypse (“America!”) happens to be the one specifically devoted to Callahan’s patriotic influences. He lists them-Kris Kristofferson, George Jones, Johnny Cash-and then he lists their ranks and service, presumably in the order of his own influence. He then suggests “I’ve never served my country,” indicating that he’s yet to achieve their level of contribution.

And with lines like “I watched David Letterman in Australia,” it’s true. These are words that mean more to him than the rest of us, and every influence that he’s mentioned within “America!” was at least able to place emotion behind their words so that they’d be relatable to the listener.

Thankfully, most of the songs on this seven song set are relatable, particularly on the eight-and-a-half minute closer “One Fine Morning.” Callahan repeats a simple two chord pattern on his acoustic while a lone piano adds dramatic flourishes behind. The drums provide a few key false starts and Kinsey weaves in and out of the mix.

All of this minimalist backdrop places the entire song in Callahan’s hands, a gentleman not know for linear song structures and verse/chorus/verse.

Indeed, he doesn’t follow such conformity, and he beats each word down by going up and down the scales until he’s exercising something from within.

Something endearing.

Something that makes me not give a shit how many people hear it, because it's good enough for me to want to keep it to myself for just a while longer.

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