Produced and co-arranged by Jim O’Rourke, ‘Red Apple Falls’ combs back the passions of ‘Wild Love’ and ‘The Doctor Came At Dawn’ to make an even part, revealing a purer pop sound; all of it pressed into pure 24k gold.
Why is it that Smog looks to find beauty in such unfortunate moments? Is sadness truly this wonderful? Make no mistake - Smog were always about beauty. Even back in the home-cooked early days of ‘Sewn To The Sky’ and ‘Forgotten Foundation’, the rocky sounds and found noises were a way to express wonderment and experience joy. More recent Smog releases vividly (and exclusively) catalogued the agonies of failing relationships and breaches of faith so intense that ‘the singer’ ended up isolated by belief. Placing himself in a fictive position seemed to allows Bill to tap into deep emotional trespasses. This ability to fictionalize stepped up to centre stage for ‘Red Apple Falls’.
Here we have the tale of a man no longer bitter over the lonely path of his life. In the middle of the night, a ‘Blood Red Bird’ crying in the darkness is his closest companion; upon waking, even ‘The Morning Paper’ is more company than he can bear. Rather than be regarded as a friend, he recalls fondly the days when ‘I Was A Stranger’. The parade of small tales rolls out with the languor and uniform quality of the Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society - one story at a time, each with its own rueful bite.
It all hearkens back to the song ‘Fables’, from the first Smog album, ‘Sewn To The Sky’, a song about the people’s penchant for morality play. On ‘Red Apple Falls’, things like the song ‘Red Apples’ (a remake of an early period Smog song) present epochal imagery very much in the centuries-old mythic tradition. Smog presents fables for our troubled times.
The soundtrack to this not unentirelv unpleasant state of affairs is the most visceral backing we’ve heard on a Smog album to date. Lush instrumentation threads through the material, with the sudden booming of a French horn giving way midsong to a barrelhouse, piano riff, a bloomin’ steel guitar, or a chorus of sweet Smog chanting. It’s enough to make you think you’re listening to a Nick Drake record, or ‘Forever Changes’. The orchestral feel of the record is reminiscent of later Phil Spector productions like George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass’ and Dion’s ‘Born To Be With You’.
Now available again after far too long on CD through Drag City.