Smog/Bill Callahan first got me hooked when I heard the track Bathysphere with it’s Cello backing and a curiously detached baritone vocal intoning about about childhood dreams of living under the ocean. It was magical and reinforced by by the rest of the Wild Love album. I stayed wrapped in their embrace for many years marvelling at some of the finest examples of songwriting you could ever hope to hear. Eventually we parted ways and after hearing the Knock Knock album I let the relationship drop.
On hearing that the latest solo album by Smog’s Bill Callahan featured a return to use of strings and horns as adornment I decided to see what was going on now. The album Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle contains two stand out tracks that rate alongside the best that Smog ever did. All Thoughts Are Prey To Some Beast is an entrancing poetic song that still hides the meaning behind the metaphor but you know it is about desire. The simpler song is Eid Ma Clack Shaw. Have you ever woken up in the night convinced you have found the answer to some great problem? On the more mundane level, I once woke up at 5 am on a Sunday morning with the design of a Haematology Laboratory Computer System in my head. I wrote it down and it proved a real success when I implemented it. Bill Callahan is a bit deeper than me so he wrestles with death’s pain and is shown the way to overcome the sadness. The answer is a song and he writes it down and then reads it back in the morning. All he finds are nonsense words. This is delivered with that magnificent voice, the controlled phrasing, and pulsating musical backing (including a klaxon sound just for fun). A masterclass.
Eid Ma Clack Shaw by Bill Callahan (Clip)