Bill Callahan Apocalypse
As befits Bill Callahan’s well-established perversity, the new Apocalypse starts out dark and menacing, and ends up blissful and sleepy. Throughout the album’s seven songs, Callahan does more than embrace oblivion; he already cornered that market on the Geiger-counter tape hiss of his early Smog recordings through the corpselike pop of 2007’s Woke On A Whaleheart. On Apocalypse, he loops his Fred Neil-meets-Michael Gira folk into circular meditations on, aptly enough, endings and beginnings. “The real people went away,” Callahan intones at the start of the album’s minor-key opener, “Drover,” before embarking on an exhausting catalog of what might have driven them all to leave. As lulling as his mood swings are, though, he gets extra prickly on “America!,” a contender for the sarcastic-asshole national anthem that namedrops two of his biggest influences, “Captain Kristofferson” and “Sergeant Cash,” before boasting, “I never served my country.” Far sparser and spacier than 2009’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, Apocalypse is embellished mostly with surgical bursts of distortion and the odd flutter of Astral Weeks-esque fiddle and flute. Other than that, Callahan’s voice and acoustic guitar are pushed to the fore—but even then, they feel submerged. “It’s all coming back to me now / My apocalypse / My apocalypse” he chants in the ghostly closer, “One Fine Morning.” By the song’s hushed fadeout, it sounds as if Callahan is trying to sing himself, not the world, out of existence.