April 26, 2010

Tonight I'm swimming to my favorite island

Bridget Sue Lambert, The Road To Satisfaction, 2001

* Uncut reviews the new Bonnie Prince Billy record. excerpt:

Compared with the rumbustious Beware, The Wonder Show Of The World initially feels rather low-key. Arrangements are spare, spectral even. Mostly, Kelly tracks Oldham with voice and either acoustic or delicate electric guitar. Bass and drums appear intermittently, as do a choir of sorts. The starkness recalls 2005’s Superwolf, albeit without the clanging interventions of Matt Sweeney. At times, a sacred air accumulates around the songs, so that “Someone Coming Through” betrays closer affinities to medieval church music than Oldham’s usual country references. But there’s a certain warmth and ’70s classicism, too: a hint of After The Gold Rush to the frail hymnal of “With Cornstalks Or Among Them”; something of Eric Clapton’s “woman tone” to Kelly’s keening solo on “Teach Me To Bear You”.

Slowly, these immensely crafted songs bed in, emerging as some of the best and most accessible that Oldham has ever written. “That’s What Our Love Is” is remarkable, a tender crystallisation of the album’s principal theme; the enduring consolations of love, both spiritual and physical. For nearly five minutes, Oldham and Kelly indulge in some gentle come-hithering, before tablas arrive and the pace and intensity picks up. “I believe these are end times,” exclaims Oldham. “Wouldn’t it be best to be together then? The smell of your box on my moustache...”

It’s an absurd image, delivered touchingly, that is typical of Oldham’s eccentric ribaldry, and of how he has spent the past few years writing about love and contentment in unorthodox, unsentimental ways. The tone of The Wonder Show Of The World (does the title refer to love itself?) might often be austere, but most of the songs are blessed with happy endings. “My chest swells and my nose snores; it’s all OK by you. I’ve never felt this welcome,” he observes on “Go Folks, Go”. In “The Sounds Are Always Begging”, the narrator’s wife goes crazy and starts “chopping up the bed”. She leaves, and Oldham tames his unruly children with the gift of music.

“Always choose the noise of music. Always end the day in singing!” he pontificates, and long experience of Will Oldham might counsel against taking his lyrics at face value. Still, it’s tempting to conclude that wonderful music and a loving home are much more important than the vagaries of commercial success. When The Palace Brothers first played London, Oldham covered Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You”, and it seemed ironic. Seventeen years on, experience suggests he might well have meant every word.

* In Japan, awesome new train technology.

* "When I dunk, I put something on it. I want the ball to hit the floor before I do." -- Darryl Dawkins


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