Bill Callahan – Apocalypse: Round 71 – Tom’s Selection

downloadAlthough, rather like Rob and unlike Nick and (to a lesser extent) Graham, I haven’t ended up going out and buying all that many records that have been played at record club, there have been many ‘double ups’ that I could have brought to the ‘Recycled Record’ theme evening. On reflection, I think one of the main reasons I haven’t bought that much that has been played by the others is because my focus has been in acquiring music that I could take to record club. Until Nick set this theme, any purchases of pre-played material would have been a wasted choice in my mind so, for example, the last time I bought a record I had XTC’s wonderful Black Sea in my hand but it went back on the rack when I came across Sparks’ Kimono My House…simply because I thought the latter album might be something to take along to a future meeting…and it has always been a record I had been intrigued to hear. So, assuming I used Rob’s criteria of only playing something I had bought since it had been played at record club, I had a similar paltry choice.

No matter, I have no problem playing Apocalypse at all. For me, Apocalypse is the best Bill Callahan (ie of the records he has released under his own name) album and one of the very best albums I have in my collection. But then, I am like a moth to a flame when it comes to Bill’s catalogue, whether it’s Bill in his early lo-fi, sardonic and disturbing Smog mode, or the paired back folk and country late period Smog stuff or, indeed, the lush, evocative and exquisitely weary records he has released as Bill Callahan.

When Nick played Apocalypse to us at the ‘bring something you haven’t played before’ evening (coincidentally, immediately prior to Zaireeka) I immediately fell in love with its laid back linearity and conversational style. And, curiously, I see it very much as a companion piece to Joni’s Hejira. Neither album gets anywhere near a chorus, they both wend their way across a lush American musical landscape, drawing you on in a deceptively simplistic way, the songs on both sounding like short stories set to music, the music on both enabling the listener to live within the songs, to experience the landscapes they describe so effectively. And, of course, both albums are lyrical perfection…my favourite line on Apocalypse is on the opener, Drover, where Bill concedes, ‘I consoled myself with rudimentary thoughts’; in fact it could be my favourite Callahan line, no damn it, it could well be my favourite line in all recorded music.

So despite Apolcalypse being something that three quarters of us know well and despite it being such an obvious Tom choice, I make no apologies for bringing it at all as, for my money, it’s one of the very best of the 250 or so albums we have shared with each other thus far…

…and it gives Rob a chance to get up to date with his homework!

Rob listened, both times: favourite line in all recorded music? But what of “I suppose a rock’s out of the question?”?

As this record closed, ‘One Fine Morning’ became the first track to have been played 3 times at DRC, and, even more remarkably, it’s been brought by three different people. This was my favourite track of 2011 and ‘Apocalypse’ was close to my favourite album. As Tom has helpfully pointed out, I didn’t write about it first time around. I’m not sure why, but I can recall finding it a difficult record to get a grip of first time around. As I recall our first impressions were of unconventional instrumentations and odd syncopations. The album finally came into focus later that year during and right across a happy holiday which turned into a sad one. I hesitate to place it in the Callahan canon. I love the economy and poetry of ‘Sometimes I Wish…’ which this doesn’t reach. I love the heartbreaking void at the heart of ‘Kicking A Couple Around’, which this record has, but hides. I love the modern myth-making of ‘Rock Bottom Riser’ and the dark hilarity of ‘Dongs of Sevotion’ and hell, almost everything else he’s ever done. To be able to find so much variety in a catalogue so superficially samey is a wonderful, resonant pleasure, one Callahan has delivered more than anyone with the excpetion of his mucker Will Oldham.


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