Rock, November 2020

hfnalbum.pngBill Callahan
Gold Record
Drag City DC760CD; LP: DC760

Bill Callahan has always allied his acute observational sense to a vivid imagination and an ability to boil a lyric down to its essence. Gold Record offers deconstructed country rock of brushed drums, mobile bass and spangly lead guitar, over which he laconically intones tales of the everyday becoming beautiful or strange. On 'Breakfast' he waits for his partner to make his favourite meal, but their relationship is revealed as dysfunctional with: 'She's been leaving like a suntan/Since the sunset began'. 'Ry Cooder' is a witty, irreverent portrait of the guitarist and on 'As I Wander' we are left with questions concerning the character of the man who longs to be a 'train conductor' – a fitting way to end this enigmatic album. MB


The Lemon Twigs
Songs For The General Public
4AD 4AD0229CD; LP: 4AD0229LP

For their third album, the D'Addario brothers appear to have been teleported, pouting and preening, from the audience of a 1973 New York Dolls concert. The Jaggerish yap of the singalong 'Hell On Wheels' is hardly auspicious, but thereafter they deliver complex neo-prog pop of flash guitars, strings and cheesy synths, sprinkled with glam stardust and shaped by a smorgasbord of influences from early Bruce Springsteen street-swagger to vocal harmonies reminiscent of Todd Rundgren. The lyrics encompass the sardonic tale of the self-destructive couple of 'Fight' and the loneliness of the man who cannot commit on the poignant 'Somebody Loving You'. MB


The All Is One
Rune Grammofon MPCD104 (two discs); 2LP: MPLP304

On this double album the Norwegian band demonstrate their extraordinary stylistic breadth, which encompasses sedate chamber folk cameos, mellotron-bolstered progressive rock grandeur and neo-psychedelia, with vocal harmonies that evoke The Grateful Dead. And like that band they come into their own when stretching out at length, as on the 42m, five-part epic 'N.O.X.', commissioned for a Trondheim festival in 2019. On it they blend the mesmeric polyrhythmic subtlety of Can and the thrilling, flat-out relentlessness of early Hawkwind. After all that, the two-minute acoustic 'A Little Light' is needed to give the palpitating listener time to decompress. MB


Fall To Pieces
False Idols K7S391CD; LP: K7S391LP

Tricky has always been keen to collaborate with female singers and for his 14th album he has hooked up with Marta Zlakowska, whom he met while on tour in Europe. And her sweet voice is the perfect foil for his own darker, more sinister tones, which shape the edgy mood of 'Hate The Pain'. Tricky's production is minimal and spacious: 'I'm In The Doorway' is typically brief and stripped back to electronic beats, vocals, piano and string samples – like electro-funk with most of the music stripped out, leaving all the wiring showing. These musical sketches with their haiku-like lyrics total just under 30 minutes, but Fall To Pieces is anything but lightweight. MB