Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Matt Sweeney - Superwolf
Caveat Lector: I am a huge, unabashed Will Oldham fan, and have a difficult time separating the wheat from the chaff in his wide river of song, since it is all tasty wheat to me. Some folks have a Morrissey, or a Nick Cave, or still even an Elvis that they can anchor their boat with, someone who can always be counted on and even in times when they don't deliver, there is a surplus of devotion to spackle these small holes in continuity. Will Oldham is my Morrissey.
All that said, Bonnie Prince Psuedonym has teamed up with frequent cohort and ex-Chavez and Zwan member Matt Sweeney to create one of the best records Sweet William has ever blessed with his ever-smoothening falsetto. One of the things I love about Will Oldham's output is the static pulse of his records, whether it be the stark world of "Arise Therefore, the opium den that is "Get On Jolly" or even the rollicking country romp of his recent "Bonnie Prince Billy Sings Greatest Palace Songs", his records flow by like a barge on the river (except that they usually adopt a slower pace that your average hotshot barge) This time around, the music revolves around the medium speed plaintive canticle of Matt Sweeney's guitar and slight augmentation, while the two harmonize singing abstract hymns to love and sex and the sun. It's one of the least pompous of Will's records (and I like his pompousness) in that he seems totally comfortable sharing the marquee with his partner.
The spooky slow-burner "My Home is the Sea" lends credence to the "Neil Young X Postmodernism = Will Oldham" equation oft thrown out when describing him, while doing what very few Billy songs do - pick up the pace half way and rock out. There are plenty of beauty-seeking duets between the two like "What Are You" and the transcendent centerpiece "Bed is For Sleeping" perhaps the prettiest song he's ever done.
Also present are the trademark churchy numbers like the spiritual locust swarm of "Goat and Ram" and the non-ironically uplifting "Lift Us Up." A highlight track for me is the is the nearly monochromatic "Blood Embrace" where the music wavers in and out of corporeality under Will's stark tale of betrayal and revenge, complete with a cinematic sample from some movie that makes this song flicker, like cinema projection though a haze of smoke.
In an era of long albums, "Superwolf"s 44 minute running time makes this album the perfect length, slithering by you, picking up psychic lint shed as you spellbound listen without eroding you, which even I will admit, some of Will's former snail paced output has a tendency to do. This album free of trickery and bombast is perhaps my new favorite from my old favorite and I gleefully hereby spread the word.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com