|Applauding Smog is a bit like
sending chocolates to a funeral. Will Oldham is
the kind of songwriter who will happily begin a song with
a minute of him coughing, call it Hangmans
Blues and have it end an LP. Miserable bugger. Its
best to just stand attentively and drink. If youre
going to smoke, ensure that this is done with as much
theatricality as possible and preferably use someone elses
fags. Smog is the sound of one mans private grief
made public: sometimes affecting, often affected, and
occasionally a little too public; a little too naked, to
be applauded. It can also be the scene of some
inescapably brilliant songwriting.Mr Glum
Oldham shot to what can only be dubbed fame, in obscurist
inkie-back-page terms, on the release of the
bone-crunching Kicking A Couple Around EP.
Your New Friend began this four song elegy
with a Jealous Guy-With A Shotgun vibe which
peaked, in latent misogyny terms, with the witty and
shrewd I Break Horses; one of the most
honest, most male songs yet to be committed to tape. The
cheerily titled The Doctor Came At Dawn LP
followed this barrel of whisky-drenched laughs, and found
Will expanding Kickings... one
man and his guitar format to include drums and
other such wayward musical stuff.
As one can expect with most emotionally retarded manic depressives, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. You Moved In and Four Hearts In A Can are the former, and All Your Women Things a distasteful version of the latter. Moments of lucid observation are upset by seconds of kiddish spite and often swamped by plain mediocrity. Be patient though. Songs like I Break Horses are few and far between.
Tonights gig at The Highbury Garage is about as typical a display of sheer grumpiness. Will wont face the audience (he faces the wings) and says one word (Thanks) at the end. If his songs were squibbish anecdotes or dry observations then this could be cool. Seeing as hes just that bit introverted, he sounds like hed rather be in bed with two bottles of whisky and a copy of Guns N Ammo. Ah, Bless!
You Moved In has our man in spectacular Norman Bates form as he utters the line You moved in/ To my hotel/ You could have done better/ Oh well. Lock your door and shower in the morning girls. Red Apple Calls follows in all its been drinking all night morning glory, and To Be Of Use still sounds as pathetic as it did on tape. All of my fantasies/ Are of making someone else come he breathes. Best kept to yourself Will.
|The gigs most distressing moment
comes, however, with the unprecedented slaughter of
I Break Horses. We get drums, piano, and whats
worse, no intimacy at all. The Garage, at half a football
pitch in size, is still too big a venue to house this
kind of intensity. Smog are suited to the kind of place
in which no-one can talk unnoticed. Tonight every ligger
in town, including the veteran Sean Hughes, is having
a word. So its little surprise that Smogs
pained sincerity is lost to the cavernous nature of both
the venue and the audiences craniums. Dont
let this put you off though. If you think Talk
Tonight is profound, please fuck off and buy Kicking...
from some obscurist record store tomorrow.
Ex Con, the single, is out next month.
Nick Paton Walsh
Contact London Student