Album: Bonnie Prince Billy, Beware (Domino)

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The Independent Culture

The sleeve typography of Beware echoes Neil Young's Tonight's The Night, and while the contents aren't quite as dismissive of listeners' sensibilities, they're still marked by the ruthless, even cruel streak that has become Will Oldham's characteristic trope.

The overall theme is of separation, taken to an extreme. Titles like "I Don't Belong to Anyone", "You Don't Love Me", "You Are Lost" and "You Can't Hurt Me Now" don't hide their contents – the last song's claim, "The more I feel myself, the more alone I am" manages the neat trick of being both a bawdy joke and a statement of character. There are references to "soul-sucking" in "Beware Your Only Friend", while even the jaunty "I Am Goodbye" seems to celebrate the fact that "you are hello and I am goodbye". The irony is that it's all dressed up in perhaps the most gaudy, welcoming musical arrangements ever to grace a Bonnie Prince Billy album, with the country-rock settings embellished with all manner of outré detail, from xylophone fills to louche saxophones, violins and revivalist choir. As an exercise in mixed signals, it's unparallelled; as entertainment, it's badly flawed.

Pick of the album: 'You Don't Love Me', 'You Are Lost', 'I Am Goodbye', 'I Don't Belong to Anyone'

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