Album: Dongs of Sevotion
Reason Featured: #10 Album for Pitchfork’s Top Twenty Albums of 2000, #27 Album for NME’s Top Fifty Albums of 2000
My Favorite Songs: Dress Sexy at My Funeral, Distance, Permanent Smile
Their Grades: NME (8/10), Pitchfork (9.3/10)
My Grade: 83%
Bill Callahan (i.e. Smog) brings up teeth a lot in his lyrics. Teeth smiling, biting, etc. Considering this is the kind of record you’ve really got to chew on to enjoy, the dental metaphors work. This meal may not be the spiciest, adventurous offering on the indie rock menu but, like that fabled banana on the cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico, it’s nourishing, bruised, ripening, organic and natural.
On the first track, “Justice Aversion,” Callahan sings, “I could stay up all night talking / About animal nature / And a universe hesistant / To grant us grace.” That’s precisely what he does for the next hour. His baritone singing and lyricism are as colored by Lou Reed’s smirking portraits of the more streetwise members of our species as they are by Leonard Cohen’s romanticized spirituality. Case in point: “Dress Sexy at My Funeral,” where you get an honest, funny ode to the powers of love, sex and death all at once. If that wouldn’t make Leonard and Lou proud, nothing would. But with all the benefits of their style of songwriting come their weaknesses too. Smog can head too deep into monotony and meaninglessness as the songs just go on and on and on. Ironically, the longest song on here “Distance” is also one of the most engaging.
The record closes with “Permanent Smile,” wherein Callahan deadpans, “Oh God, I never, never asked why.” For a record so caught up with talking about animal nature and a universe hesitant to grant us great, it seems like a weird signoff. Until you realize Dongs of Sevotion isn’t about asking why, it’s about standing back and letting it all be. If that’s what you’re looking for, Callahan’s a great conversation partner.
Not available on Spotify.