Tunes from the leather couch

Feb 3, 1999 at 12:00 am

Bill "Smog" Callahan’s records have always been an analyst’s feast, full of deep-seated guilt for being human and the inevitable psychosexual frustration which follows. It’s no wonder he turns away from audiences when he performs; it isn’t easy to look people in the face when you’re telling your darkest secrets, even if they come in a form no meatier than pencil sketches. Bill Smog draws an uncanny amount of emotion out of his minimal guitar playing and slow dragging vocals – all part of the tour inside the brilliant introvert.

While the self-imposed creative womb may get tedious at times, it never fails to be interesting. And if you’ve been following along for a few records, the closest thing ever to a Smog love song, "Held," just might make this whole CD worthwhile. "For the first time in my life/ I let myself be held, like a big old baby/ I surrendered to your Charity." Remember, this is the same guy who, just a few years ago, brought us the line: "Ever girl I’ve ever loved wanted to be hit."

Of course, his signature hesitation and cynicism are alive and well, exploring and paralleling the contradictions of grotesqueness in beauty, lies behind truth, etc. And this process goes on till surrendering to the ridiculous realities of life and kicking against them become indistinguishable: "If there were something so hard and clear/ it would have been bought and sold long ago/ Please know this/ If someone offers you some sugar/ You should eat it" ("Sweet Treat").

Consume with caution.