Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse is a very different proposition to his last album.
While on 2008’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle he used sweeping orchestral movements and a full band feel to create an intimate album, on Apocalypse he has gone the other way, using a stripped back, intimate sound to create something altogether more expansive.
Huge issues such as American colonisation and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are covered here, albeit in Callahan’s usual meandering way.
With its small band feel, punctuated with squealing electric guitars and flutes, Apocalypse can be an unsettling listen at times, but not for too long as Callahan’s luxuriously deep voice has a calming influence and can easily draw you back to normality.
Loosely based around the theme of Callahan sitting in a hotel room looking out at the world , the album starts with his thoughts turning to the expanse of the US on ‘Drover’ and the colonisation of the wild west.
He then moves to more global concerns in the deserts of Afghanistan and elsewhere on the album’s centrepiece ‘America’. By final track ‘One Fine Morning’ it’s time for his droving to end. Along the way on this global journey there’s some of Callahan’s best work, especially ‘Riding for the Feeling’, in which his thoughts are back temporarily in his unspecified hotel room somewhere in the world.
While markedly different in tone and subject matter to his previous album Apocalypse is unmistakably Callahan and a welcome addition to his back catalogue as both Smog and under his own name.
by Joe Lepper