Smog
Red Apple Falls


4.0
excellent

Review

by eureka USER (6 Reviews)
January 6th, 2021 | 9 replies


Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Bill Callahan's dark masterpiece - a world where unbridled pain and exquisite beauty coexist

Two towers jut out from an idyllic English landscape. Ornate architecture blends with the imposing specter of oppressive religion. Promises of heaven and peace amid a land swept by an unforgiving plague. Bill Callahan’s project Smog navigates such spaces, and no album in his discography (except, perhaps, its successor) more perfectly encapsulates this acute sense of darkness. Morbid without being overly dramatic, Red Apple Falls is Callahan’s dark masterpiece – a sonic tapestry of coexisting hopelessness and beauty.

The album begins with an instant suggestion of uncertainty – a dissonant chord fingerpicked awkwardly, which slides into a droning and narcotic hum. The lyrics to “The Morning Paper” continue the oblique analogy – some looming threat counteracted with escapist sleep and a recurring image of red apples. The guitar’s sound is fleshed out by horns and a reedy bagpipe hanging in the background. A piano towards the end of the song complements these sounds with chords that sound alien yet familiar. These are familiar sounds, yet something is deeply unsettling about their arrangement. The album continues this trajectory, slowly revealing layers on layers of sorrow.

“I Was a Stranger” sharpens the album’s opening suite by joining this sadness with a strangely-perky alt-country arrangement, a gorgeous pedal steel performance surrounding Callahan’s bitter lyrics. This song finely juxtaposes a lush instrumental with the narrator’s misogyny and bile, setting up a country song that feels like a spoonful of sugar with a highly-acidic aftertaste. What follows are three dark and ugly yet beautiful songs, three of Callahan’s finest, that respectively portray animalism, an atmosphere of death and apathy, and barely-restrained misanthropy.

While these songs should be repelling, Bill Callahan is able to so articulately describe pain that it feels oddly comforting. Listening back to these songs during the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the world over twenty years after this album’s release, they seem to remind the listener that the pain is real and valid. Even the parts that any idealistic artist would airbrush over with hope and uplifting characteristics get a blunt examination here.

Beyond the lovely production from Jim O’Rourke and the pleasing sound of Callahan’s vocals, the aforementioned lyrical honesty is what makes me return to this album – I hate that I see much of myself in the narrator, yet I feel compelled to examine these parts truthfully. This album announced the arrival of a true songwriting talent by stripping away the tape hiss and abrasiveness characteristic of Smog’s earlier experiments and outfitting Callahan’s dark lyrics with beautiful sounds. An excellent starting point into the weird world of Smog, and an underrated classic in my humble opinion.



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user ratings (72)
4
excellent


Comments:Add a Comment 
eureka
January 6th 2021


12 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is the first review I've written here, so please be nice - any comments on how I can improve my writing are greatly appreciated.

WeepingBanana
January 6th 2021


10676 Comments


Cool review. Love Bill

rabidfish
January 6th 2021


6262 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

bro this review slaps, cool thanks!

love the album, wish i liked other smog projects as much.

Digging: Deux Filles - Silence and Wisdom

Pheromone
January 6th 2021


10601 Comments


Callahan is sucha weird artist for me - all his albums are solid 3s n he has some classic songs but never full lp : (

Digging: Fushitsusha - Live I

theBoneyKing
January 6th 2021


19746 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Really? I’ve rated like 8 of his albums a solid 4+

WeepingBanana
January 6th 2021


10676 Comments


My fav is probably A River Ain’t Too Much To Love

Pheromone
January 6th 2021


10601 Comments


I think smog is more your sound boney, i do see how someone can love him

my favourite by him is 'prince alone' which probably says alot about my smog appreciation

NeroCorleone
January 7th 2021


229 Comments


Good review, about time someone did it. Ex-Con is one of my favorite songs ever.

MrSirLordGentleman
January 7th 2021


13686 Comments


Cool album

Really like the artwork. Anyone knows if that's a real church?



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