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Rock Bottom Riser - EP

Smog

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Album Review

Arriving a year after A River Ain't Too Much to Love, the Rock Bottom Riser EP reimagines two of the loveliest songs from that gracefully understated album and includes two previously unreleased tracks and the video for "Rock Bottom Riser." The new version of the title track — which features most of the crew who played on A River Ain't Too Much to Love — is even more intimate than the original; it's so up close and personal that you can hear the squeak of Bill Callahan's fingers against the strings of his acoustic guitar. "I Feel Like the Mother of the World" is another reminder that Callahan remains a storyteller and lyricist par excellence, able to sum up his take on all the trouble going on in the world with a line like "Oh do I feel like the mother of the world/With two children fighting." Rock Bottom Riser's previously unreleased songs are shorter and less ambitious than what comes before them, but they keep up Callahan's tradition of tucking some of his only slightly less polished gems on his EPs. "Bowery" is particularly striking, a short but compelling acoustic sketch that has a melody that seems comforting until the song's final line, "And when he came up from the river of methadone, he breathed his last breath on the bowery," brings chills. Fortunately, the ambling country two-step "Fools Lament" closes Rock Bottom Riser with if not exactly a sigh of relief, then a wry smile.

Biography

Formed: 1966 in Silver Spring, MD

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

An under-recognized pioneer of the lo-fi revolution, Smog was essentially the alias of one Bill Callahan, an enigmatic singer/songwriter whose odd, fractured music neatly epitomized the tenets and excesses of the home-recording boom. Melancholy, poignant, and self-obsessed, Callahan's four-track output offered a peepshow view into an insular world of alienation and inner turmoil, his painfully intimate...
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