Sometimes I Wish I Liked Bill Callahan (Not Really A Review)


You know how Spaceballs was much funnier when you were like 12 years old? I only mention it because of the lame Prince Valium gag where they have the space prince who is always falling asleep (see, ’cause his name is Valium. See what Mel Brooks did there? Yeah, that’s why you should pretend he died in 1981 after making History of the World Part 1). And I know you came here looking for a review of Bill Callahan’s Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle, but in listening to the thing, I’m sad to report I felt a lot like Prince Valium.

I really want to like Bill Callahan. At least I think I do. I recall really enjoying the last album he did as Smog and I even liked Woke On A Whale Heart well enough. But Sometimes I Wish My Album Titles Made Grammatical Sense just bored the living shit out of me. It’s a narcotic. I nearly dosed off listening to it in my car. Damn thing should come with a warning label.

I get that the album was supposedly inspired by a gut-wrenching breakup and I will also allow that Callahan’s awesomely low baritone doesn’t lend itself to vocal pyrotechnics, but that’s not the problem. His Smog albums were some of the most depressing things I’ve ever heard – they are, in fact,  nearly Love Liza-esque in their ability to make one curl up on the floor in desperate need of a hug (if you haven’t seen Love Liza, it’s a beautiful movie, very well done, and one of many stellar performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman. It’s also like getting kicked in the nuts by a guy who stops by to tell you your whole family just died in a fire and their last words were about how they never loved you. I recommend it, but I also kinda never want to see it again). So I know Callahan doesn’t have to bore me to tears. So why is Sometimes I Wish Matt  Would Stop Fucking with Long Album Titles different? Has Bill Callahan changed? Have I changed?

Truth is, I don’t know. The only song I remember off of Sometimes I Wish For Just A Dash of Brevity is “Eid Ma Clack Shaw,” and that’s only because it is utter fucking nonsense. I kinda get what he was going for on it: the words are supposed to be the perfect words to win his lady back or some such thing, but he read ’em in a dream so when he writes them down upon waking, they make no sense. It’s like a three-minute Finnegan’s Wake but without Joseph Campbell’s awesome skeleton key. In more interesting news, did you know Joseph Campbell (yeah, the guy who wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces) wrote A Skeleton Key to Finnegan’s Wake? I’ll be hittin’ that shit up on Amazon for sure. And if you haven’t read Hero and you write things – any things – or read things – you should totally read it.

I know what you’re thinking: you’re thinking, “I’ve read about half of this review and precious little has been said about the album.” That’s ’cause it put me to sleep. So you could take that as a definite thumbs-down or as me not liking it or whatever. If you’re foolishly optimistic or are some kind of Bill Callahan fanboy (do those exist?), you could charitably say that for me, the jury’s still out. Except that they’re never fucking coming back because they’ve gone on to adjudicate something more interesting… (wait for it)… like grass growing.

There is, I’m sure, an audience for Bill Callahan’s Sometimes I Wish I Had a Skeleton Key to Finnegan’s Wake, it’s just that I’m not, you know, it. The songs seem to all blend together into this slow-paced jumble and you end up four tracks in thinking that you’ve been slogging through a double album. I’m not aware of any dramatic shift in my attention span over the last few years, so I have no choice but to pin it on Mr. Callahan for being boring.  So I guess, if you’re a Callahan fanboy, you can fire up your Word program and start crafting those polite, monotonous hate letters now.


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