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Winter 2009 - Anticipated Albums of 2009Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy


Drag City

Feb 01, 2009 Winter 2009 - Anticipated Albums of 2009 Bookmark and Share

On his seventh album since 2006, Will Oldham is preoccupied with the same things, such as love left to rot, his own stomach, and sex. Also intact is his soft-spoken and sometimes angelic voice, which belies the devilish humor contained within his lyrics. On the other hand, Beware! rocks out more than its predecessors, and the more raucous spirit doesn’t always jibe with Oldham’s laconic attitude.

The opening “Beware Your Only Friend” seems to prepare the listener for the experience; the layered guitars, the thumping percussion, and the chorus of female voices all scream big record. For someone who is usually so self-contained, Oldham reaches out on Beware! and the visions of the outside world aren’t always welcome as it drowns out and flattens much of his appeal.

Oldham dials it down with “You Can’t Hurt Me Now,” with its hilarious chorus, “The more I feel myself/the more alone I am.” But even this quieter song opens up periodically, with interesting flourishes (is that a xylophone?) and some of Oldham’s most open-throated vocals. Oldham letting loose in this song simply doesn’t feel right, although he surely has the pipes to do it; the timing is off.

It’s odd: One would think the more interesting instrumentation would increase Oldham’s appeal, but it’s actually a distraction from his strong suits. He’s a natural lyricist, one of the best around, but musically, Beware! is sloppy in a back porch way. Which can be very appealing, but there’s something missing here. Perhaps Oldham needs another album to feel more comfortable sitting on this particular porch. At the rate he works, that could be any day now.


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