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Smog

Knock Knock - 20th Anniversary Edition

    Hey, it’s the 20th Anniversary half-speed master vinyl edition of the Smog classic, ‘Knock Knock’, by Smog. Placing this LP on your turntable, you find yourself drawn ever-deeper into the sound - and it’s not just the eternally-stunning co-production from Callahan and Jim O’Rourke, it’s the incredible focus brought by the half-speed mastering work done at Abbey Road, bringing out the highs, lows and even mids that OG fans of this album have taken for granted for too many years. The fresh fullness of the sound now stands as a tribute to the ol’ familiar Smog sensation of being somehow completely unfamiliar.

    Back in 1999, Bill was staking out new territory. Issued in the wake of the game-changing ‘Red Apple Falls’, ‘Knock Knock’ upped the ante of the game, pairing his naked portraiture with increasingly delicate nuances in song and arrangement. The people responded in kind, turning out in ever-increasing numbers to shops and venues alike. They weren’t quite singing along with ‘Cold-Blooded Old Times’ yet - that’s a happy post-millennial development - but there was a lot of excitement in the air back in those final old-century days.

    ‘Knock Knock’ was enough of a tour de force that staging a re-look these twenty years later was a cool no-brainer. With production values at an all-time (for then) high and a team of Chicago-based studio rats (as well as a carefully vetted-and-compensated singing children’s choir) on the case, ‘Knock Knock’ was the most colourful of Smog albums; a record that played like a real-life opera, a story told in song. Today, songs like ‘Held’, ‘River Guard’ and ‘Hit The Ground Running” are still called for at concerts. Meanwhile, the 20th Anniversary half-speed remaster of the LP allows us to perceive the expansive spaces in tunes like ‘Sweet Treat’ and ‘Left Only With Love’.

    It wouldn’t have been the 90s without a CD version and the label are re-releasing that in original, non-remastered form. Also, in tribute to where it all came from (but where it definitively wasn’t at the time), they have a cassette version of ‘Knock Knock’ for the neo-lo-fi heads to appreciate.

    Smog

    Red Apple Falls

      Over the years Smog records ranged around from several completely selfplayed and recorded efforts, dictated by voices from within, to more collaborative projects involving the people outside Bill Callahan’s head. However, never before was there a Smog album made like this

      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.

      Golden Smog

      Stay Golden: The Best Of Golden Smog - The Rykodisc Years

      In the late 80s, Minneapolis was home to a tightly knit music scene that claimed its fair share of groups on college and alternative radio playlists. When they weren't playing in their own bands, singer Kraig Johnson (Run Westy Run) and guitarists Dan Murphy (Soul Asylum) and Gary Louris (the Jayhawks) and Marc Perlman (the Jayhawks) got together as Golden Smog to play with friends and have a good time. The band recorded a pair of albums for Rykodisc in the early 90s, featuring Uncle Tupelo/Wilco's Jeff Tweedy and drummers Noah Levy (Honeydogs) and Jody Stephens (Big Star). Rhino brings together the essential tracks from both of those early releases for this album. This 18-song collection also features an alternate version of the fan favourite "Until You Came Along" and an unreleased Brian Wilson cover ("Love And Mercy").


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