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Kicking a Couple Around - EP

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Album Review

Though the four songs on 1996's Kicking a Couple Around EP weren't recorded at the same time or even with the same people, it nevertheless flows seamlessly — a fine, concise primer to Smog's aesthetic. The EP kicks off with one of Bill Callahan's most excruciating odes to claustrophobia, "Your New Friend." Originally recorded for a BBC Radio session, the song's halting acoustic rhythm and lyrical images of hiding from a dissolving relationship behind a Chinese screen are painfully honest and beautiful. "Back in School" and "I Break Horses" — which likens love affairs to taming horses — feature some of Callahan's warmest singing and most eloquent lyrics: "Back in School"'s "I'm trying to learn your language/It's like a fly learning how to bark" and "Just a few well-placed words/And their wandering hearts are gone" from "I Break Horses" distill Smog's blend of dry, dark humor and emotion. These two songs and "The Orange Glow of a Stranger's Living Room" were recorded by Steve Albini; their intricate, droning acoustic arrangements showcase Callahan's musical progression. Affecting and accessible, Kicking a Couple Around is a must for Smog fans and those curious about the band.

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 songs ping-ponging wildly through a scrapbook of childhood recollections, failed relationships,...
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Kicking a Couple Around - EP, Smog
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