Thursday, 18 November 2010

Lo-fi, country style

After the hipster folk of Bon Iver, we come to Bonny 'Prince' Billy - a bit of a counterculture pin-up, one of those singers who's a cult amongst other musicians.

Be warned - there's no end to the tale of the Bonnie Prince. He's been going since 1993 under a bewildering range of names, including Palace Brothers, Palace Music, Palace Songs, Palace, Will Oldham and Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - and there are probably more I don't know about.

What can I say about the music? It's variable - sometimes sounding like the rougher end of Slint's math-rock noise, often country or what became 'alt-country', and usually pretty outspoken on matters of the heart - song titles include 'You Have Cum in Your Hair and Your Dick is Hanging Out' and 'When You Have No One, No One Can Hurt You'.

Recently, he's been sounding tender, though the lyrics aren't quite as loving as the music implies. Joya, the first 'Will Oldham' album, is one of my favourites.

However - we'll come to those in the fullness of time. For now, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's 14 (!) albums (some of which are obsessive re-recordings of his older work) are the subject at hand.  I See A Darkness is heartbreakingly beautiful. I've got them all on vinyl, but the only ones I have on CD (and computer are) Blue Lotus Feet, I See A Darkness, Beware, Joya, and The Wonder Show of the World.

Diving into them is like spending an educational evening with a tramp of dubious provenance but much experience and wisdom, most of it miserable. He'll always surprise you with a beautiful melody and inventive turn of phrase, but you have to forgive the deliberately primitive recording and the mumbled, beardy singing.

Which songs to recommend? 'Death To Everyone' is good at parties and very catchy. The whole album is like a rural goth with tongue firmly in cheek.

From Blue Lotus Feet, I'd go for 'One With The Birds' - it's fun and it namechecks Mogwai (a band I love) in the first lines.

From Joya, 'Open Your Heart' is pretty direct ('open your heart, let the snake in'):

Beware seems to strip the Prince back to bare bones - and hint at awareness that he's parodying himself - it's a lot of fun. Try 'You Can't Me Hurt Me Now':

Finally, of the Bonnie "Prince" Billy And The Cairo Gang work, I love 'Go, Folks, Go' - it's clearly a thinly disguised pop song.

Now that's how to do lo-fi. I'm off to slit my wrists, Appalachian style.


ed said...

More doom and gloom Vole!

‘You have cum…’ and ‘Death to Everyone’ are brilliant.
I’ll be sure to look into this guy’s various incarnations; maybe in the morning though. Too much of this stuff after midnight isn’t good for your health.

The Gnashing Mole said...

You have gone straight from Bon Ivor to Bonnie Prince Billy.

Whither Bon Jovi?

The Plashing Vole said...

Shamefully, my collection is bereft of Mr. Jovi's oeuvre.