Smog @ The Garage, London Highbury Corner

Bill Callahan's records tend to revolve around tales of failed interactions, and the way he conducts this gig seems to provide some evidence that these are not built on superimposed feelings. The man seems to positively shrink into the side of the stage as he softly ambles through his starkly beautiful set. Which is quite a feat for a man of such towering physical stature. It would seem that he really does believe that to allow interaction invites disaster, as the audience is left to rely upon a somehow powerful display of fragility that allows for no communication beyond his art. To be fair, some of the audience are cocksuckers who seem more interested in proving their indie cool by vigorously applauding some of the less recent songs, as if to show that they have been in the know since before the latest opus, "Red Apple Falls".

So it's a shame they don't seem to recognise anything older than "Chosen One" from "Julius Caesar". The same wankers also seem to think that because a song has a faster tempo it is therefore happy. Take "Bathysphere"---the dissonant clatter of the piano and guitar tonight drive the barbs deeper than ever as Bill drags the hurt of a child brutally stripped of innocent misconception into the sad longing vocal hooks. Why would anyone want to dance around and wave their arms to this? Juxtaposition is the concept that has been missed I think. And no, I don't have a girlfriend but that's not the point---this gig is not really the place for sad little indie boys in their anoraks to wallow in misery. It's more about holding on really tight to your loved one and grasping the joy that there is in love when the rest of the world can seem so bleak. It's about seeing the sadness in beauty and the beauty in sadness. Like in "Chosen One" which is about being happy for a lost love because they're still so damn beautiful (in whatever way). That particular song serves to illustrate the power of Bill's live performance, w ith his guitar backed only by the haunting piano and sparse drumming to create a sound capable of surging flows and ebbs in atmosphere.

It's fair to say that there are no great musical leaps here, but it all fits so well that it becomes a remarkably vivid display of penmanship that provides faith in Smog's backwards career evolution from gloriously dirty abstraction to conventional orchestrated beauty. Even those older abstractions are rearranged to fit the sparsely melodic sound of this threesome to perfect effect. Some may scoff at the indulgence and others laugh at the seriousness but, at the end of the day, it's much more simple than it seems. Simply heartbreakingly beautiful. (Drew)

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