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Smog

An under-recognized pioneer of the lo-fi revolution, Smog was essentially the alias of one Bill Callahan, an enigmatic singer/songwriter whose odd, fractured music neatly epitomized the tenets and excesses of the home-recording boom. Melancholy, poignant, and self-obsessed, Callahan's four-track output offered a peepshow view into an insular world of alienation and inner turmoil, his painfully intimate songs ping-ponging wildly through a scrapbook of childhood recollections, failed relationships, bizarre fetishes, and dashed hopes.

Smog debuted in 1988 with the spare, primitive Macrame Gunplay, a cassette-only release issued on Callahan's own Disaster label. Cow followed in 1989, while three more tapes -- A Table Setting, Tired Tape Machine, and Sewn to the Sky -- were issued a year later. With 1991's Floating EP, Smog signed to the Chicago-based indie label Drag City, and with the move began an advancement toward more traditional songcraft. The subsequent full-length, Forgotten Foundation, was his most well-rounded effort yet, employing a stronger sense of melody while remaining true to the trademark bare-bones atmosphere.

Released in 1993, the superb Julius Caesar raised the stakes considerably. Recorded with collaborators Cynthia Dall and Jim O'Rourke, the album expanded the Smog palette to include touches of cello, violin, and even banjo. At the same time, Callahan's songs were his best yet; highlighted by the touching "Chosen One" and the menacing "Your Wedding," Julius Caesar also featured "I Am Star Wars!," a hilarious rant built around a tape loop of the intro to the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women." The six-track Burning Kingdom EP appeared the following year.

Issued in 1995, Wild Love continued Smog's approach toward relative sonic grandeur. Led off by the remarkable "Bathysphere" (its title a fitting metaphor for Callahan's self-absorption) and climaxed by the epic "Prince Alone in the Studio" (a virtual theme song for a solitary creative existence), the LP reflected his bitter obsessions with stunning clarity, emerging as a triumph of abject failure. After 1996's Kicking a Couple Around EP, Smog resurfaced later in the year with The Doctor Came at Dawn; Red Apple Falls followed in 1997.

The peripatetic Callahan relocated to Chicago prior to the release of 1999's Knock Knock, resurfacing in the spring of 2000 with Dongs of Sevotion and the Strayed EP. 'Neath the Puke Tree followed that fall, an EP that reinvented several tracks and included a few new ones. By the next year, Callahan changed his project's name to the more intimate (Smog), drawing attention away from the "idea" of Smog and putting more emphasis on the music. The next album, Rain on Lens, followed on this path by unveiling several more reflective and sensitive tracks. A year later, the Accumulation: None singles collection arrived with five new songs and the continued use of parentheses. Classically voluble, Callahan returned with Supper in 2003. The literary, laid-back A River Ain't Too Much to Love -- which reflected Callahan's move to Austin, Texas and featured performances by Drag City labelmate Joanna Newsom -- arrived in 2005. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Rock Bottom Riser

1. Rock Bottom Riser

2. I Feel Like The Mother Of The World

3. Bowery

4. Fools Lament

x

Track List: Supper

1. Feather By Feather

2. Butterflies Drowned In Wine

3. Morality

4. Ambition

5. Vessel In Vain

6. Truth Serum

7. Our Anniversary

8. Driving

9. A Guiding Light

x

Track List: Accumulation: None

1. Astronaut

2. A Hit

3. Spanish Moss

4. Chosen One

5. Floating

6. Real Live Dress

7. Came Blue

8. Little Girl Shoes

9. Cold Blooded Old Times

10. White Ribbon

11. I Break Horses

12. Hole In The Heart

x

Track List: Rain On Lens

1. Rain On Lens 1

2. Song

3. Natural Decline

4. Keep Some Steady Friends Around

5. Dirty Pants

6. Lazy Rain

7. Short Drive

8. Live As If Someone Is Always Watching You

9. Rain On Lens 2

10. Revanchism

x

Track List: Dongs Of Sevotion

1. Justice Aversion

2. Dress Sexy At My Funeral

3. Strayed

4. The Hard Road

5. Easily Led

6. Bloodflow

7. Nineteen

8. Distance

9. Devotion

10. Cold Discovery

11. Permanent Smile

x

Track List: Kicking A Couple Around

1. Your New Friend

2. Back In School

3. I Break Horses

4. The Orange Glow Of A Stranger's Living Room

x

Track List: Sewn To The Sky

1. Souped Up II

2. Kings Tongue

3. Garb

4. Hollow Out Cakes

5. Confederate Bills And Pinball Slugs

6. Coconut Cataract

7. Fruit Bats

8. Peach Pit

9. Disgust

10. Russian Winter

11. Polio Shimmy

12. Smog

13. Lost My Key

14. Fried Piper

15. Fables

16. Puritan Work Ethic

17. A Jar Of Sand

18. I Want To Tell You About A Man

19. Olive Drab Spectre

20. The Weightlifter

x

Track List: Julius Caesar

1. Strawberry Rash

2. Your Wedding

3. 37 Push Ups

4. Stalled On The Tracks

5. One Less Star

6. Golden

7. When You Walk

8. I Am Star Wars!

9. Connections

10. When The Power Goes Out

11. Chosen One

12. What Kind Of Angel

13. Stick In The Mud

x

Track List: Forgotten Foundation

1. Burning Kingdom

2. Filament

3. High School Freak

4. Your Dress

5. Barometric Pressure

6. Guitar Innovator

7. Evil Tyrant

8. Head Of Stone I

9. Head Of Stone II

10. Long Gray Hair

11. Kiss Your Lips

12. Bad Ideas For Country Songs I

13. Bad Ideas For Country Songs II

14. Dead River

15. Bad Investment

16. Brown Bag

17. Let Me Have That Jar Back

18. This Insane Cop

19. 97th Street

20. Do The Bed

21. I'm Smiling

22. With A Green Complexion

x

Track List: 'Neath The Puke Tree

1. I Was A Stranger (alt. version)

2. Your Sweet Entrance

3. A Jar Of Sand

4. Orion Obscured By Stars

5. Coacheecayoo

x

Track List: A River Ain't Too Much To Love

1. Palimpsest

2. Say Valley Maker

3. The Well

4. Rock Bottom Riser

5. I Feel Like The Mother Of The World

6. In The Pines

7. Drinking At The Dam

8. Running The Loping

9. I'm New Here

10. Let Me See The Colts

x

Track List: Blurred EP

1. Blurred

2. Blurred (Xenoscapes Remix)

3. Blurred (Monktec Remix)

4. Blurred (Foundry Mine Remix)

5. Blurred (Zentrix Remix)

6. Paranoid

7. Paranoid (Xenoscapes Remix)

8. Blurranoid (Florian Msk BiMix)

x

Track List: Burning Kingdom

1. My Shell (Electric Version)

2. Renee Died

3. My Family

4. Drunk On The Stars

5. Not Lonely Anymore

6. The Desert

x

Track List: Knock Knock

1. Let's Move To The Country

2. Held

3. River Guard

4. No Dancing

5. Teenage Spaceship

6. Cold Blooded Old Times

7. Sweet Treat

8. Hit The Ground Running

9. I Could Drive Forever

10. Left Only With Love

x

Track List: Red Apple Falls

1. The Morning Paper

2. Blood Red Bird

3. Red Apples

4. I Was A Stranger

5. To Be Of Use

6. Red Apple Falls

7. Ex-Con

8. Inspirational

9. Finer Days

x

Track List: The Doctor Came At Dawn

1. You Moved In

2. Somewhere In The Night

3. Lize

4. Spread Your Bloody Wings

5. Carmelite Lite

6. Everything You Touch Becomes A Crutch

7. All Your Women Things

8. Whistling Teapot (Rag)

9. Four Hearts In A Can

10. Hangman Blues

x

Track List: Wild Love

1. Bathysphere

2. Wild Love

3. Sweet Smog Children

4. Bathroom Floor

5. The Emperor

6. Limited Capacity

7. It's Rough

8. Sleepy Joe

9. The Candle

10. Be Hit

11. Prince Alone In The Studio

12. Goldfish Bowl

Comments

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Meaghen Nan Porte-- I thought Nick Drake too.
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Bill Callahan is one of my lyrical heroes!
Report as inappropriate
Dont read this because it actually works. You will get kissed on the possible Friday by the love of your life . Tomorrow will be the best day of your life. However if you don't post this you will die in 2 day . Now you've started reading so don't stop. This is so scary out this on at least 5 songs in 143 minutes when done press f6 and your lover's name will appear on the screen in big letters this is so scary because it actually works!
Report as inappropriate
What the heck!? I thought this was Nick Drake, and then looked up. Hmm
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sometimes I feel, like the mother of the world
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mbowley75
The old stuff is still untouchable for me as far as Smog goes. After Wild Love, Bill Callahan never quite got back there in my estimation.
Report as inappropriate
--Smug--
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smog is the best, bill callahan is the best. his new solo albums are great too.
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bathysphere makes me want to be a kid so i can die before i grow old and bitter.
Report as inappropriate
Rain on Lens is amazing
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the silver jews are a hundred times better then smog, i will debate that to my death bed.
Report as inappropriate
they sound like the silver jews
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I have to agree mmilliman. Sounds alot like Lou.
Report as inappropriate
mmilliman
How is Lou Reed not considered a similar artist? Callahan's vocals would fit right in between any two songs on most of Lou's albums.
Report as inappropriate
You know....I really like this cat. Our Anniversary. Who hasnt been there?
Report as inappropriate
changzilla
I saw him live and it's incredible!
Report as inappropriate
Never heard it before, but now I'm glad I have.
Report as inappropriate
vlad777fomin
beautifully said bishops babes
Report as inappropriate
I agree with brit
Report as inappropriate
Callahan has perfected the pause, like a great painter using spots of blank canvas to greater efect than any amount of paint ( i beleve the term is "negetive space";))
Report as inappropriate
viva lo-fi

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