Smog - Knock Knock

by Bob Coyne Rating: Release Date:1999-02-01

One of the more hauntingly visionary indie-rock artists, Bill Callahan, a.k.a. Smog, writes sparse, poignant songs that shimmer with solipsistic grandeur. His sixth full-length disc, Knock Knock, shivers with restlessness, recounting forlorn tales of imprisoned convicts ("River Guard"), disenfranchised country boys ("Hit the Ground Running"), and unrequited love ("Left Only with Love"). Smog is too well-produced to qualify as lo-fi anymore, but the rich strings, chiming piano, and baleful strums of Knock Knock never detract from the workingman's loneliness of the disc. Like Neil Young's Tonight's the Night, only without the nasal vocals, the album is serene and sedate but nonetheless unsettling, as if the collective scene Callahan creates is merely the calm before the storm. Fortunately, when the melodies seem to drift too close to comatose, the shuffling beat and drifting feedback of "Held", the distorted chug of "No Dancing", and the jangly strum of "Cold Blooded Old Times" keep the needle from flatlining. --Jon Wiederhorn

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