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[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

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[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
Smog
A River Ain't Too Much to Love
Drag City Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


July 1, 2005
If I were a petty person, I would be pissed at Drag City right now. The label, which has been one of my favorites for the past 5 years, advertised a job opening (which you've probably seen if you have been to their site in the last two months) which I totally went for. I didn't get it and I watched my indie snob dream job go down the drain.

With this bias, I picked up Smog's latest release vowing not to be won over, but A River Ain't Too Much To Love is too damn good.

Long-time Drag Citizen Smog (AKA Bill Callahan) has been producing consistently weird music at the steady pace of about an album a year for over a decade. Callahan's brand of off-key poetics and minimalist instrumentation is sometimes touching and sometimes pretentious. The 2003 release Supper came off as evidence of the latter due to its druggy guitar work and dense, funky ballads, the likes of which a Rhodes Scholar wouldn't be able to dissect.

Putting such silliness behind him though, Smog is reborn with A River Ain't Too Much To Love. Everything about this album is quieter and more subdued than previous outings, and Callahan's voice is eminently better served in this capacity. Not really singing and not really speaking, his voice gives a greater meaning to Jim White's shushed drums and the occasional guitar strum. Songs like "In the Pines" and "I'm New Here" don't have many notes to them, but Smog squeezes the juice out of every second of the album.

The theme of water that the title refers to is an additional grace; Callahan's songs about rivers, dams and wells are nothing short of elegant: "Bury me in wood and I will splinter/Bury me in stone and I will quake/Bury me in water and I will geyser/Bury me in fire and I'm gonna phoenix." Careful not to take himself too seriously, Callahan sings in "The Well," "I guess everybody has their own thing they yell into a well/I gave it a couple of hoots, a hello/and a 'fuck all y'all.'" Lyrics like these aren't meant for amateurs, and only a few people can pull off this borderline poetry without sounding pompous - namely the Drag City crew (i.e. Will Oldham, David Berman, Alasdair Roberts, Joanna Newsom, etc.).

No matter how good it is, fifty minutes of pseudo-spoken-word can also be a bummer. Thankfully the album's closer, "Let Me See the Colts," has a bit more meat to it: steady drumming and guitar crescendos that don't compromise the delicacy of Callahan's lyrics about sleeping horses.

A River Ain't Too Much To Love has more in common with great books than it does with great rock albums; it's intelligent, introspective, sensitive and best experienced in a very quiet place. Unless he accepts a Writer-In-Residence position at UVA, there's nothing, even bias, stopping Smog from making yet another heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Reviewed by Andy Brown
A regular contributor to LAS, Andy Brown lives in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, but doesn\'t think he has an accent.

See other reviews by Andy Brown

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