Sunday, January 23, 2011
PALACE BROTHERS - VIVA LAST BLUES
This was yanked at random from the racks earlier this morning. I've been giving a lot of time to all things Will Oldham of late, he's a tough cookie to keep up with and seems to shit out an album on an almost bi-monthly basis. To be honest this could be part of the appeal - Ooooh just think of all those spines staring out at you in date order. This is probably how James Last got so big, an obedient army of mindless completists just waiting for the latest moustachio sleeved album to hit the shelves.
I have no love for James Last and luckily that is where the similarities between him and the cuddliest man in music come to an end. I find something colossally wholesome about Will Oldham or Bonnie ' Prince' Billy - I don't like using that acronym as it sounds Scottish and consequently makes me think of Irn Bru and Big Issue sellers (Interestingly enough he does look like a Big Issue seller). I find listening to him is a bit like eating a couscous salad: I actually feel like it's doing you good as I eat it. Will Oldham is horses, rolling hills, he's a Powell and Pressburger film on Christmas Day. That's why I find myself playing it now, it's perfect Sunday morning music to sit my son in front of, his synapses firing ten to the dozen and taking in every off-kilter tone and wonderfully tuneless wail.
There's nothing controversial about WIll Oldham, nothing tasteless or difficult. The only thing remotely challenging about him is keeping up with that quick fire out-put. Yes he sings 'If I could fuck a mountain' in 'The Mountain Low' but he does so in such a nice beardy boy next door way that it's in impossible to take offense.
So, on to this 'Viva Last Blues'. It's more electric than much of his output - The opener on side 2 'Work Hard/Play Hard' comes as something of a shock, it's tempo and delivery a lot more ferocious than you might expect. There are other songs that share the former's mood but not it's perfect battered pitch and delivery. The rest of the album is as you might expect: The greatest voice in contemporary Americana accompanied sparingly with guitar and the occasional addition of rhythm.
I think a problem with Will Oldham might be that has such a prolific output and so much of it is totally listenable, completely enjoyable that it's hard to find exception in that body of work for better or worse. I have my favorites, the Tortoise collaboration comes to mind but there isn't much that's head and shoulders above. 'Viva Last Blues' is no exception.
'But it's Palace Brothers!'
Yes, but if you care to get out some paper and an HB1 and draw a graph plotting the boy Oldham's works casting aside any old skool indie allegiances any money this sits bang smack in the middle of that scatter graph along with 80% of his work.
This said it really isn't such a bad thing. It's good to have a constant in your life of some kind, somebody musically reliable and despite his turning up in the strangest of places - Jackass, a Kanye West video etc, someone who is for the most part at least thusfar, predictable.
I like it, and as he rocks back and forth on one of those bouncy chair things, so does the little man*.
NB* - Reading that back I feel it important to clarify that I am actually talking about my son and not my penis.