Smog – Knock Knock
Drag City, 1999
Acquired: Love Garden, Used, 2007
This is the Smog record I recommend to everyone. It's got the quiet grace of his later records in addition to some pretty spectacular rockers. Mostly though, it's pretty quiet. Serene, even. Just listen to “Teenage Spaceship” or to lovely ode to domesticity “Let's Move to the Country.” There's something bluesy to it all, but without ever being classified as the dreaded blues-rock. There's something about Bill Callahan's guitar sound that makes this a perfect record. You hear it on “Cold Blooded Old Times” and “Hit the Ground Running.” It's weird how this record runs between vindicating and fucking sad as hell. It's hard to find a song sadder than “Left Only With Love.” “When I lost you/ I lost my family/ You did what was right to do/ And I hope you find your husband/ And a father to your children.” Kills me every time. It's the Smog record that's most elemental, I guess. There is exactly one click/whistle on this album, and it's the incorporation of a children's choir on “Hit the Ground Running,” and he just barely pulls it off. It works, and mostly because there's a picture of the choir on the back of the sleeve. The rest is just straight up and stripped bare, and that's why it's sort of Bill Callahan's masterpiece.
Here's a video of "Cold Blooded Old Times" performed at Emos in Austin, TX.