Grand OI Opry, Glasgow, Mon 12 Nov; La Belle Angele, Edinburgh, Tue 13 Nov.
As if you didn‘t know Smog is the creation of Bill Callahan and an ever changing cast of musicians. Though only really registering on the radar with a larger audience with 1999’s brilliant “Cold Blooded Old Times' from the excellent Knock Knock album. Smog are important pioneers of the lo-fi movement in American independent music. influencing acts as diverse as Pavement and Will Oldham's Palace.
Callahan‘s albums are where he really stands proud. showcasing his morbid wit and Leonard Cohenesque charm in long players that are characterised by their sparse, often discordant. not to say dysfunctional. instrumentation. Born in Silver Springs. Maryland, Callahan initially based himself in Georgia where his first releases were self-produced cassettes. affairs made up of curious soundscapes. Moving to Drag City records he then released the more song-orientated Forgotten Foundation. followed by the awe inspiringly gloom-laden Julius Caesar. This is an album still held up by pedants and old fans as his greatest work. mainly for the single ‘Your Wedding'. which makes Gram Parson‘s ‘81 000 Wedding' sound like a manifestation of marital glee.
1994's relentless downbeat mini album Burning Kingdom was (in terms of inexorable pessimism) far outstripped by the album Wild Love (try playing 'Prince Alone In The Studio' without reaching for the Buckfast and sleeping pills). By this point Callahan was so well respected he had US underground indie royalty like Jim O'Rourke working as a session musician for him. The Doctor Came At Dawn saw Callahan back in the studio on his own. Then in 1.997 Callahan turned a corner and started messing
with our minds with French horns, pedal steel and eerily detached vocals and guitar with a series of superb classic albums. Red Apple Falls seemed to signal that he wanted to be Beck on tamazepan. but then again maybe the prozac started kicking in. Then Knock Knock was followed by Dongs Of Sevofion which saw him pulling all the generic stops out and attracting adjectives from critics as diverse as ‘glam'. ‘funk' and ‘baroque'.
In trouble with the old Bill
Having got all that out of his system, Callahan now returns to us with the self-mocking but rocking Rain On Lens. where he strips bare the music room and shows us truly how much The Strokes, and in particular, White Stripes really owe him. specifically in the prairie whisper two-note groan of ‘Song'.
If Tim Hardin was still with us today he wouldn't want to be a carpenter. he would want to be Bill Callahan. (Paul Dale)
This fortnight you lucky sods, The List presents not one, but two — count ‘em — two new musical marvels to get your
gnashers into. And you will know them as Elevation and ARE Weapons.
So what’s the crack then?
Well. how about Elevation (progeny of Britrock faVOurites Three Colours Red) fOr starters?
They're described by ex-Three Colours vocalist/bassist as the music he always wanted to make. after Singing gurtarist Chris McCormack‘s lines last time round. And he's drafted in drummer Keith Baxter from his previous band. as well as basSist Janne JarVis to help out.
Quite right, too! Equal rights for rhythm sections, that‘s what I say! And they sound like . . . ?
Head down Smashing Pumpkins Avenue and take a left turn into ClaSSIC Depeche Mode territory Just as yOu see the head-
up-arse pomposity approaching over the hill. Check out the debut Elevation EP if you don't believe me.
You know, I might just do that.
Now, what was that about weapons? Yup. that'll be ARE Weapons. Where to start? Two Bostonites and one bloke (bizarrely) from Cambridge. they look like Guns 'N' Roses. SOUnd like Television fed repeatedly through an electrorap mangle and they've got a singer called Brain. And if you believe the rumours. one of them is getting romantic with Chloe Sevigny. Jarvis Cocker has championed them in the past and Winona Ryder's a big fan. Oh yeah, they share a record label with The Strokes. too. and their second single ‘New York Muscle' will be out pretty damn sharpish. You like The Strokes. don't you? I love The Strokes! So what does the ARE stand for?
Erm . . . it came to them in a dream. apparently. But . . . I don't know . . .
Ha Ha! Gotcha!
Elevation rise from the ashes of 3 Colours Red
Weapons expert, Brain
leli) NO). .‘0lil THE LIST 45