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Best of Boston 2009

Bill Callahan

Woke on a Whaleheart | Drag City
By MATT ASHARE  |  September 5, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
It may be hard to imagine, but when Lou Reed left the lo-fi proto-punk of the Velvet Underground behind for the polished, poetic pop of his solo albums, devotees were devastated. Check out Lester Bangs’s interview with Reed in Psychotic Reactions for a taste of just how seriously such matters were taken. Of course, these days, artists cross genre borders with the ease of a college kid on a Eurail pass. Yet there’s something shocking about Woke on a Whaleheart, the first album by Chicago indie hero Bill Callahan not recorded under his usual Smog moniker. The trappings of the lo-fi bedroom auteur are cast aside in favor of crystal-clear production that — though it retains vestiges of the Americana Callahan had been gravitating toward with Smog — is still altogether different. There are Motown-style grooves, like the one that propels “Footprints,” on which, as Reed might put it, the colored girls go, “Oh, oh, oh.” Like Reed, Callahan settles somewhere between poetry and pop: both rhyme and melody are less important than the sound of words and the images they evoke. “Following the river from above like a bird with faith in worthless knowledge and the fallen stars they flew too,” he speak-sings in the plangent, stoic “From the Rivers to the Ocean.” Although not as ornate, it recalls Berlin in mood. So if that’s your phone ringing, Bill, maybe it’s Lou calling to ask for his shtick back.

Bill Callahan + Richard Bishop | Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | September 8 | 617.369.3393
Related: Bill Callahan | Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle, Balls, Acoustic mainline, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , Bill Callahan, Environmental Protection, Lester Bangs,  More more >
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