Angela Lewis on pop music

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The Independent Culture
What an interesting mix Smog (below right) and Palace Music make. Both bands are fronted by thin and pale American men who create their own mini universe with the help of a twanging guitar, captivating vocals and lyrics to treasure. Of the two, shy boy extraordinaire Bill Callahan of Smog is the most conventional. "Your New Friend" from EP single "Kicking a Couple Around" is close to Sebadoh's Lou Barlow territory - a poignant tale of a withered love affair. In other hands, his wistful post-mortem of a relationship could sound self-indulgent or self-pitying, but Callahan's elegant voice invests his work with dignity, no matter how tragic the stream of revelations become.

As for Will Oldham of Palace Music, he continues to send shivers down the spine. His new album, Arise, Therefore, is definitely his most bleak and uncompromising yet. But for some, this intense, stark blues stuff is his best-ever work, partly because his poeticism is original, and deceptively simple. And the accompanying lyric booklet is an answer to the folk who moan that he mumbles nonsense. Nick Cave would sell his granny to pen lines like, "I can remember, thanks to the smells, how colours can be, and how to smuggle in breath, to a column or corridor hemmed in with death."

Smog and Palace Music have played London together before, to a packed house, and complemented each other well. Oldham even acknowledges Callahan in his album booklet, so they must be pals. Perhaps one bright day they'll write a song together. Now that truly would be something awesome.

Palace Music and Smog, London Camden Dingwalls (0171-287 0932) Sun

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