The fourth record from the man behind Smog and with a voice so rich and all encompassing it sounds as if it harbours all the wisdom in the world. With a title like Apocalypse you’d be forgiven for thinking this recording a dystopic outlook on the modern world, but infact Bill Callahan delivers a thumping country and western collection of seven sprawling songs which branch out over each of their individual lengths.
Moving from the thunderous opener ‘Drover’, Callahan’s deep timbred voice nestles itself inside your ear while a string accompaniment orchestrates a contrified dance around it. It’s all change for the knee jerk groove beats of ‘America!’, perhaps the most uptempo and arguably more musically interesting of the songs found here. Its satirical confessions of “watch[ing] David Letterman in Australia” somehow masking, with the song’s upbeat rhythm that seems rather misplaced for Callahan’s voice, to uncover the political statement at its core. As a record Apocalypse feels entirely of the country from which it was sourced, with record distributor Drag City stating it “is the soul of your country…[leaving] a message. Seven messages.”
These are lyrics, for the most part, of celebration however, the landscape surrounding Callahan revealing itself at curtain call, as “the mountains bow down like a ballet to the morning sun”. His lyrical imagery is deeply imbedded in the earth, (“reap what you sow and sing”) acknowledging the breadth and beauty of his America from the opener which depicts a cattle drive, to closer ‘One Fine Morning’. The latter is a stunning and unfurling, piano ballad, thickening to match Callahan’s voice, as richly embedded in the mix as ever while deep and heavy drums make sporadic kicks of atmosphere: a place of wonder and beauty though perhaps often threat.
This is an excellent album, and one that provides a vivid visualisation of salty sea and sunrise thanks to the glistening piano and subtle call of flutes. A story of America as narrated by a 21st Century voice that feels so wisely ancestoral in its huskiness.
Review by: Melanie McGovern
MP3: Baby’s Breath
Video: Tiny Desk Concert (2009):
UK Tour Dates
Thu. May 5 Dublin, Ireland @ Academy
Fri. May 6 Manchester, United Kingdom @ Central Methodist Hall
Sat. May 7 Glasgow, United Kingdom @ School of Art
Mon. May 9 London, United Kingdom @ Barbican
Tue. May 10 Bristol, United Kingdom @ Bristol Trinity
Amazon UK: Apocalypse