The resurgence of Bill Callahan, a truly classic underground American songwriter, is appreciated — New Yorker and NY Times profiles; positive, historicizing Pitchfork review for newest dispatch Apocalypse — but it’s strange that his early, noisy, and especially dark albums have, more or less, been left out of the discussion. The cleaned-up, buttoned-down version of Callahan is not the musician I knew and loved for most of the ’90s — or the musician now, really. It’s a strange move in a year when the average indie-rock, or whatever, listener is willingly delving into bleaker material (Goblin is a fucked up record, even if it’s coming from an instigating middle-class kid who’s clearly never done any of the shit he’s rapping about). As noted, Smog favorites like 1993’s Julius Caesar, 1995’s Wild Love, the devastating 1996 12″ Kicking A Couple Around plus, before that, the scorching 1994 EP, Burning Kingdom and the “A Hit” 7″ are essential components of his sonic worldview, one that’s darker, sexier, stranger, and more perverted than folks are letting on in 2011. (You know, flat-out beautiful songs about creating dolls from an ex’s clothes and carefully fucking said doll, etc.) Then again, Callahan apparently doesn’t care if we remember the past — distant or more recent. As he told Cole when stopping by for a Progress Report:
STEREOGUM: How would your say Apocalypse fits in with the rest of your catalog? And how would you characterize your relationship to your body of work? There will always be those fans who will forever obsess over the early Smog records. What do you think of that early work? And how is it to play those songs now, or do you?
BILL CALLAHAN: I’ve recorded hundreds of songs. It suits me best to pretend they don’t exist. It’s not hard. They don’t help or hinder me in any way. Each new song is it’s own policeman — it’s not related to the past. Music is the most futuristic art, I read somebody say recently. It’s the most fluid, as it has no form.
That in (or out of) mind, here’s the Archie Radkins-directed video for Apocalypse’s “Riding For The Feeling.” The clip makes use of Max Galyon’s artwork.
Apocalypse is out via Drag City.