T(F)IC #5: "The B-Sides for Time to be Clear"

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24. Mär. 2012, 23:02

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy - The B-sides for Time To Be Clear


Label: Drag City, Domino
Grade: A+

Three songs. That's it. Three songs. No hyperbole contained within; you NEED this record. Bonny Billie, Billy Bon-Bon, Bonnie Billy-Willy, or Will Oldham if you prefer, already released a album less than six months ago, the tepid Wolfroy Goes To Town, and by his prolific nature, we knew he wouldn't be gone too long. He has ANOTHER 10" planned for Record Store Day, several collaborative EPs/singles out in the past month, and MANY compilation appearances scheduled before the end of the year. ...and with his track-record, we know that they will be worth hearing. These three songs do EXACTLY what the majority of Wolfroy didn't; in that they are driving, catchy, funny and somber simultaneously, and feature beautiful melodies and lyrics. In other words, this is just another Bonny Billy record. Thank goodness for that.

Time To Be Clear is the second best track on Wolfroy; next to the wonderful Quail and Dumplings, with its muted guitar lead. Billy sings "I want to peel the wallpaper / and swing from chandeliers", which is a humorous statement when given the context of the line. It's just him and a simple plucked guitar. That's it. Yes, I know it's the same formula Oldham has followed for many years, but he's the best at doing it, and that's why it matters. When those harmonies come in, thanks to The Cairo Gang and Angel Olsen, (alongside an apparently impromptu aria/descant), tell me that this song doesn't have you sitting there bobbing your head up-and-down, headphones in, glass of wine in hand smiling as widely as humanly possible.

The first b-side, Whipped, features a firm riff that repeats throughout the entire song; forming a basis for the muted percussion, simple guitar fills, and wonderful call-and-response vocals. The lyrics describe the willingness to accept the fact that it's okay to get old; to be older, and that the main protagonist is in fact, whipped. A strange talent of Oldham's is that he can tow the line between being sexually explicit (such as on So Everyone, where he desires public oral sex from his lover, and on the numerous tracks where he describes the "taste of your box / on my 'stach", like on A King at Night) and composing a genuinely affecting love song. This song is no exception. In fact, this song sounds like the perfect denouement to Nomadic Revery (All Around), which echoes similar themes. (Plus, that bridge and the one in Whipped are so similar in their out-of-this-world-what-is-happening-no-one-else-could-ever-pull-this-off development, that they feel like they are one-in-the-same).

Rounding out the 7" is the bombast and hilarious Out Of Mind. This, had it been on Wolfroy, would've been the most upbeat and rockin' song on there by MILES, and that is a welcome addition. The beautiful thing about a 7" is the comparison between the A-Side and the B-side, and this song, lyrically AND musically, stands in direct opposition to the first two songs. Sample lyrics: "But nobody answered / nobody answers / or will look me in my eye / you are out of my mind / but now / so am I", which is a genius of a lyrical turn. The organ/keyboard solo that leads into the guitar solo is a jammy development that is rarely on Oldham's recorded output, but usually reserved for the live shows, which contrasts with the tight grooves of the A-side.

Will Oldham is quickly developing into an artist I respect more than almost all others; his ability to be hilarious and somber, quiet but driving, insane yet controlled, loud with unparalleled dynamic control, and usually all of these things in one song, repeated throughout the rest of the record, are attributes many folk musicians would die to have. Scratch that. ANY musicians spend their entire career attempting to obtain these attributes. This 7" is no exception; as great to the most avid follower of Oldham as it would be to virgin Oldham ears. Long live Bonny Billy, and let him never be apart of the "future that will diminish / by what today [he] did" in this fantastic record. Viva Oldham Blues. Forever.

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