Album: Bonnie 'Prince' Billy & The Cairo Gang, The Wonder Show of The World (Domino)

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The Independent Culture

Will Oldham follows up last year's dangerously solipsistic Beware with an album rather more in keeping with his stature as the most conflicted of latterday singer-songwriters, an ascetic, solitary romantic – though ultimately it's no more welcoming than its predecessor.

Set to a series of gentle acoustic guitar strums occasionally razored by fractured electric guitar breaks, the songs on The Wonder Show Of The World reflect a grimly devoted personality whose prevailing attitude, according to "Go Folks, Go", reiterates the grim mood of I See A Darkness. His honest admission in "Troublesome Houses" – that he "once loved a girl, but she couldn't take that I visited troublesome houses" – is presented with an unrepentant sincerity rarely encountered within the routine emotional range mined by most of Oldham's peers. And what would be the rationale behind a song called "Teach Me To Bear You", a title whose mix of presumption and insult seems ill-suited to its supposed task of persuasion? The bigger problem is that shorn of the intriguing instrumental detail of his recent albums, these long, ruminative screeds so lacking in empathy also lack the musical attraction that might keep one's attention.

Download this: Troublesome Houses; Go Folks, Go