Album: Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy

Superwolf, DOMINO
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The Independent Culture

There's a typically troubling current of soft-spoken carnality coursing through this latest offering from Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, which came about as the result of a challenge laid down to his old chum (and the guitarist in Billy Corgan's group Zwan) Sweeney to write the music for a series of Billy's lyrics. In this world, sex is animalistic, and its participants instinctive, lust-crazed beasts like the "panther girl" in "Rudy Foolish" and the satyric figures of "Goat and Ram". But Billy observes it in a highly mediated, thoughtful manner - as, for instance, his musings in "Beast for Thee": "Love in some way you choose/ God's plan can easy bruise/ One bone and blood mass we fuse/ And I can be a beast for thee". Where others celebrate the joy of sex, he seems more concerned to render it a threatening, risky business, perhaps in order to return to sex some of its lost mystery and vitality. Sweeney envelops the lyrics in layers of delicate, arpeggiated chords or desultory strums, punctuated here and there by piercing lead guitar breaks, the occasional whine of lap steel, and, on the concluding "I Gave You", the warm hum of a harmonium. Combined with a quiet, incantatory delivery, this is a return to the sometimes brutal intimacy of Billy's earlier work.