Rain on Lens (Drag City), the new album by the artist who now apparently wishes to be referred to as (smog), just might be the first Smog record to be all it can be. Bill Callahan’s a real underdog hero for those of us who’ve always found Elliott Smith tedious or ever thought that Leonard Cohen was at his best on those rare occasions when he put a little sweat and swagger–a little sex, violence, and rock ‘n’ roll–into his usual literary grimness. Like all Smog records, Rain on Lens is sparse and sharp as a skinny hipbone; here, though, drummer Pat Samson, bassist Geoff Greenberg, and guitarist Rick Rizzo pin down a ringing, pinging groove under Callahan’s potent poetry. The song that’s stuck with me for the past few days is “Lazy Rain”: “Me and a friend of mine / We just cheated death / Now I’m walking home / For death’s rain check…I keep my scratchy cast to myself / As I feel our bodies melt / Into two drops of lazy rain / Snaking down the window pane.” The album was recorded quick ‘n’ dirty back in May, but when I hear those lines I can’t think of anything but the recent Salon.com essay on the new “terror sex” phenomenon in New York. The band touring with Callahan is completely different from the one on the album–a Dirty Three-ish setup, with Dirty Three drummer Jim White, violinist Jessica Billey, and guitarist Mike Saenz–but that ought to be interesting in its own right. Neil Michael Hagerty (who’s featured, along with Callahan, on the new Drag City Supersession LP, Tramps, Traitors and Little Devils) and Chestnut Station (in which Rizzo plays guitar) open. Thursday, October 4, 9 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Luisa Cinta.