Smog–Cold Blooded Old Times

When you think of modern country, what comes to mind often isn’t too pretty.  Out-of-touch, overproduced, cookie cutter dreck dominates the genre.  But hiding in the corners are a few artists who have gallantly lent credibility and soul to it over the past few decades.  Performing under Smog, as well as his own name, Bill Callahan has spent years creating simple, repetitive songs that burrow inside you, none more so than Cold Blooded Old Times.  It gained a modicum of fame after being featured on the High Fidelity soundtrack.  Compared to the likes of Aretha Franklin, The Jam and The Velvet Underground, it was a pretty obscure inclusion, but it’s stark confidence was unique amongst the rest of the collection, which leaned more psychedelic and soulful.  It’s easily the standout.  A painful account of a child recalling the abuse his father inflicted upon his mother, it nevertheless feels oddly upbeat, with hand claps throughout and a saloon-inspired piano.  The subject matter and the simple, unchanging structure combine with Callahan’s flat vocal inflection to create an uneasy tension.  It’s an impressive trick, creating a song that’s equal parts toe-tappingly catchy and disquieting.

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