Bill Callahan - Apocalypse LP

(Drag City, 2011)


Even as Bill Callahan’s music has matured  and changed from his output under the Smog moniker he still manages to obfuscate and mystify at every opportunity. Apocalypse has so many qualities of a traditional folk rock record, and yet it is chock-full of odd lyrical moments and experimental flourishes. “Baby’s Breath” has some of the coolest guitar effects this side of Lee Ranaldo, while “America!” never makes it quite clear if he’s truly singing the praises of The Homeland or not-so-discreetly poking fun. Callahan sings of watching David Letterman in Australia and pining to be “on the next flight to America” just a few minutes before saying “All the lucky suckle teat/Others chaw pig knuckle meat/Ain't enough teat, ain't enough teat/...ain't enough to eat/In America.” Is he a true believer? A dissenter? Or maybe he falls somewhere in the middle...

One gets the impression that you’re not supposed to know if Callahan is taking all of this seriously or not, and often it seems that he’s not sure himself. At times the album’s closer “One Fine Morning” sounds like one of the most eloquent and poetic send-offs ever put to record, and then it ends with Callahan literally reading off the album’s catalog number as the track fades out. What? Why? Eh, whatever, Bill Callahan can do whatever he wants!