Will Oldham v Bill Callahan

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Will Oldham touched me (not sexually). You?

patrickedgar, Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:00 (fifteen years ago) link


roxymuzak (roxymuzak), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:00 (fifteen years ago) link

tough one. Both totally inconsistent, both frequently inspired / inspiring.

But there are more Smog songs I like than Palace / BPB / etc

very close, but Callahan

Roger Fidelity (Roger Fidelity), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:03 (fifteen years ago) link

bill x1000. at least he sometimes comes across as sincere.

the surface noise (slight return) (electricsound), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:07 (fifteen years ago) link

Very close, but Oldham. I do love "Knock Knock" & "Dongs of Sevotion" but "I See A Darkness" really floored me.

Piers (piers), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:08 (fifteen years ago) link

"The Brute Choir", lock thread.

roxymuzak (roxymuzak), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:14 (fifteen years ago) link


From a Land of Grass Without Mirrors (AaronHz), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:17 (fifteen years ago) link

Smog for "Teenage Spaceship" and "Ex-Con,", but an interesting comparison.

Mark (MarkR), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:42 (fifteen years ago) link

Oldham's arrangements are less conscious. along w/his lyrics, they feel more natural and timeless. Oldham's lyrics are arguably more fluid and less definite.

Russignon, Tuesday, 2 November 2004 02:51 (fifteen years ago) link

Both of them seem to have lost all of their talent in 1996 and have turned out terrible album after terrible album since, but Smog meant more to me when they were both good. Plus his Sundowners single was better than Oldham's Sundowners single, so Callahan.

Vic Funk, Tuesday, 2 November 2004 12:50 (fifteen years ago) link

Oldham is good but i LOVE Bill.

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 14:41 (fifteen years ago) link

both played our club back in '96 or '97. callahan was much nicer and i like some of his songs too, so it's obviously smog.

Marco Damiani (Marco D.), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 14:49 (fifteen years ago) link

CALLAHAN by like a million.

n/a (Nick A.), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 15:54 (fifteen years ago) link


I was thinking, the other day, about I See A Darkness. It's frequently lauded as his 'masterpiece' but I find that the albums directly before and after it are much, much better. Arise Therefore has this amazing bleak, suicide vibe--so much of it just sounds so heartfelt. Similarly, Ease Down The Road feels incredibly sincere but in the totally opposite direction. I See A Darkness has some rad songs, but I don't feel it hanging together as well as either of those two albums, and it does have some weak tracks ("A MInor Place" "Song For the New Breed" "Raining in Darling").

I ought to hear more Smog, though. I'm only familiar with Rain on Lens and Dongs of Sevotion.

Ian John50n (orion), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 18:25 (fifteen years ago) link

(actually.. I See A Darkness may be my least favorite Oldham album. That or Master & Everyone.)

Ian John50n (orion), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 18:38 (fifteen years ago) link

Will used to be better than Bill is now, but the best of the more recent Smog stuff is better than the best new Oldham stuff.
But overall, ouvre-wise, I go with Will.

Mike Dixon, Tuesday, 2 November 2004 18:52 (fifteen years ago) link

Oldham, definitely. His voice is so haunting in all the right ways. Although "Cold Blooded Old Times" might be better than any single Oldham song. Shit, except for "I See a Darkness." That song is a force of nature.

Clusterfuck at the Baja Fresh Salsa Bar (Ben Boyer), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 18:54 (fifteen years ago) link

Oldham without a doubt. His wilfulness, his irony, his unreliability, his lack of user-friendliness, his flirtations with MOR, all the things that seem to piss some people off are to me the extra ingredients that make him a genius. It's the lacunae and distortions in his work that makes it important. Sometimes I feel like that man can see inside me.

By comparison Bill Callahan's good, but no genius.

noodle vague (noodle vague), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 19:30 (fifteen years ago) link

Urgh. My reasons for Callahan over Oldham:
1. The voice. Oldham's voice is so weak and quavery, which works on some of his songs, but not if he's trying to convey something other than desperation or loneliness. Callahan's voice is awesome, but is monotonous enough (in a good way) that it can be applied to a wider variety of moods.
2. The lyrics. Oldham's lyrics have these deliberate anachronisms and forced creepiness/weirdness that really grate. Callahan's lyrics express like 1,000 times more with about 3/4s of the words, and the weirdness seems genuine.

n/a (Nick A.), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 19:58 (fifteen years ago) link

Oldham, by a mile over Callahan, and I love both of their catalogs dearly.

New Partner > Cold Blooded Oldtimes

Jeff-PTTL (Jeff), Tuesday, 2 November 2004 22:42 (fifteen years ago) link

callahan, though oldham is very interesting and occasionally very engaging. i listen to 'knock knock' and 'red apple falls' and even 'doctor came at down' much more than 'i see a darkness' or 'ease down the road' or 'arise therefore.'

amateur!!st, Tuesday, 2 November 2004 22:44 (fifteen years ago) link

which are my favorite oldham records--and very good they are

amateur!!st, Tuesday, 2 November 2004 22:51 (fifteen years ago) link

four years pass...

These guys's albums (and some Silver Jews) are pleasing me today.

caek, Wednesday, 31 December 2008 14:56 (eleven years ago) link

I pick Callahan because I'm a euro-pig.

u s steel, Wednesday, 31 December 2008 16:03 (eleven years ago) link

oldham 4 sure i used to love this guy so much as a teen - arise therefor is the best

❤¯\㋡/¯❤ (ice cr?m), Wednesday, 31 December 2008 16:05 (eleven years ago) link


That said, I never managed to get very deep into either. LOVE I See a Darkness, which I picked up at random after years of occasionally buying (and usually liking) this or that Oldham/Palace/whatever LP or 45. That and the roughly contemporary "South Side of the World" / "One With the Birds" 45 are incredible, but I haven't liked subsequent stuffs nearly as much. Also remember extra digging the Palace EP w/ "Horses" & "Trudy Dies", and that "Big Balls" mutilation Oldham did for Skin Graft. Makes me think I oughtta do some backtracking here...

In the very early 90s, I liked the idea of liking Smog. Bought Sewn to the Sky because she look intersting, handmade, but never really got the hang of it. A couple years later, picked up Julius Caesar, which was okayish, but I loved "37 Push Ups" and still do. Favorite Smog song by far. Friends have gotten real deep into subsequent Smogs, esp. the Red Apple thru Dongs era, and I can't deny, but it's never quite pushed past like into love for me. Again, I probably just haven't given it the time it deserves.

served by boot-face (contenderizer), Wednesday, 31 December 2008 16:28 (eleven years ago) link

That article was nice. My favorite part: He was wearing a maroon tank top, orange-and-pink pants, blue Crocs, and a pink Boston Red Sox cap, with “cam” and “odia” scrawled on either side of the “B.” Does anyone know where I can find a good picture of this, showing the handwriting? (The Pitchfork pix don't).

dad a, Wednesday, 31 December 2008 16:40 (eleven years ago) link

its quite the aggressive look eh

❤¯\㋡/¯❤ (ice cr?m), Wednesday, 31 December 2008 17:30 (eleven years ago) link

two years pass...

i like them both v much

ullr saves (gbx), Friday, 4 February 2011 01:43 (nine years ago) link

oldham is a bit of a blind spot for me, i would struggle to name three songs. callahan is a longtime fave otoh, so he wins this by default.

psycho yahtzee (haitch), Friday, 4 February 2011 01:53 (nine years ago) link

Like hilarious to see someone choosing Callahan over Oldham based on voice. Callahan has the biggest joke of a voice upon which an actual career is premised I have ever heard. Even pre-voice lessons Oldham was schooling him vocally on all counts. Oldham is the only answer.

Badmotorfinger Debate Club (MFB), Friday, 4 February 2011 01:55 (nine years ago) link

Callahan has the biggest joke of a voice upon which an actual career is premised I have ever heard.

utter bullshit. have you heard anything he's done in the past few years? gorgeous voice. feel like Oldham's voice peaked around I See a Darkness and Ease Down the Road. it's gotten... scratchier?

circa1916, Friday, 4 February 2011 01:59 (nine years ago) link

I heard his last record and found it just as unbearable as his other records and most of the Smog records (I have heard most of them). I love Oldham, Berman and most of the Drag City po-mo singer-songwriter stable to death, some of my favorite music ever. I have never heard anything by Callahan that approaches that level, his whole approach is bizarre, unfunny, devoid of emotion. Just nothing to offer. I understand why he is compared to Oldham for obvious reasons but as far as the singer-songwriter milieu they are an opposite ends of the aesthetic spectrum IMO.

Badmotorfinger Debate Club (MFB), Friday, 4 February 2011 02:04 (nine years ago) link

his whole approach is...devoid of emotion.

I guess I can understand why you don't like his songs (if not your hostility), but this claim is just...bizarre. Maybe you should listen to some recent records? I find his music to be deeply emotional.

Hadrian VIII, Friday, 4 February 2011 02:30 (nine years ago) link

also 'unfunny'?? dude's hilarious

iatee, Friday, 4 February 2011 02:32 (nine years ago) link


Hadrian VIII, Friday, 4 February 2011 02:33 (nine years ago) link

everybody knows/
a menage a trois/
is just the desire/
to do it with/
your ma, and pa

schlump, Friday, 4 February 2011 02:43 (nine years ago) link

dress sexy is a sweet, quietly hilarious song imo

ullr saves (gbx), Friday, 4 February 2011 04:03 (nine years ago) link

utter bullshit. have you heard anything he's done in the past few years? gorgeous voice.

otm. the dude has a beautiful voice. kinda sounds like willie if you dropped him to a baritone

ullr saves (gbx), Friday, 4 February 2011 04:04 (nine years ago) link

Well these guys are all idiosyncratic personalities to a degree so perhaps Callahan's personality just doesn't appeal to me, like at all. I think lyrically he has a bit in common with Jim O'Rourke's approach, and I love O'Rourke's pop records. I don't know, there is just something "off" about him to me.

I would maintain that his voice is, at best, a very acquired taste whereas I think Oldham has broad appeal, at least vocally.

Badmotorfinger Debate Club (MFB), Friday, 4 February 2011 04:16 (nine years ago) link

I would maintain that his voice is, at best, a very acquired taste whereas I think Oldham has broad appeal, at least vocally.

i love both these dudes, and obv diff't strokes and all, but man i can't help but think this is totally backwards for most people! oldham's voice is great, now esp, but his early stuff is uh challenging to say the least. callahan's 'problem' is not that his voice is bad, but that he doesn't let it loose more often. if he went as hard as oldham does (there doesn't exist a smog rave-up as far as i know) i'm guessing he would sound great. as it is, his whole ish is that he's pretty restrained, and seems to ride the edge between 'sonorous talking' and 'barely croony'.

ullr saves (gbx), Friday, 4 February 2011 04:27 (nine years ago) link

does callahan use backup singers? oldham has been using them with very excellent results for the last several records. good tact for a marginal singer imo

buzza, Friday, 4 February 2011 04:30 (nine years ago) link


buzza, Friday, 4 February 2011 04:34 (nine years ago) link

callahan leaves me p cold

love oldham tho

i like silver jews best but i guess thats not the thread

cloudy predecessor (Lamp), Friday, 4 February 2011 04:38 (nine years ago) link

love both these guys, might give a slight edge to callahan but who cares they're both good

OPOs are 'river guard' and 'strange form of life'

ciderpress, Friday, 4 February 2011 04:44 (nine years ago) link

Will is a far more interesting artist, his whole career path is pretty amazing. I think he has many more years and surprises left in him.

i love you but i have chosen snarkness (Steve Shasta), Friday, 4 February 2011 05:38 (nine years ago) link

Oldham by leaps and bounds

O_o-O_0-o_O (jjjusten), Friday, 4 February 2011 06:08 (nine years ago) link

wtf @ this... bill callahan's voice these days is beautiful

just sayin, Friday, 4 February 2011 09:04 (nine years ago) link

pretty sure Oldham, Callahan, and Silver Jews accounted for about 50% of my listening in college. Oldham was always the favorite back then but i've since moved over to Callahan. i think that's mostly because Oldham's last few records, while fine, are just kind of... eh. he's fallen into a bit of a groove and it's a bland one. Callahan on the other hand is doing some of the best work of his career. still dig Will. i think he's a wonderful lyricist. but Bill's stuff hits harder these days.

circa1916, Saturday, 5 February 2011 07:38 (nine years ago) link

i think will had a great 00s actually

superwolf might be my fav overall thing he ever did, i thought the tortoise things was a pretty successful experiment, really like the letting go, lie down in the light, jeez was the nashville record this decade? can't remember

basedketball (upper mississippi sh@kedown), Saturday, 5 February 2011 15:46 (nine years ago) link

yeah i agree. those are three of my favorites. the nashville one never grabbed me but it's due for a revisit soon. bill though put out his best album in 2009 and people his vocals and sense of humor (seriously!!) are way offtm.

Moreno, Saturday, 5 February 2011 17:57 (nine years ago) link

two months pass...

there are two threads comparing callahan and oldham, but i feel like david berman might be a better comparison for callahan? or like callahan is the intersection between oldham and berman?

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 15:53 (nine years ago) link

ha just looked upthread and saw several silver jews mentions. so much for my "original thought"

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 15:54 (nine years ago) link

been listening to a lot of the drag city weirdo troubadour poets (oldham, callahan, berman) lately. really impressive bodies of work from all of 'em...

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 15:57 (nine years ago) link

a poll of oldham vs callahan vs berman would be impossible to vote on.

Algerian Goalkeeper, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 16:01 (nine years ago) link

kind of feel like berman has an unfair advantage because he really hasn't been as prolific as the other guys....

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 16:02 (nine years ago) link

yeah you are probably right

Algerian Goalkeeper, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 16:02 (nine years ago) link

would be an easy choice of callahan for me

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 16:13 (nine years ago) link

i need to listen to more silver jews though

congratulations (n/a), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 16:13 (nine years ago) link

pitting all three against each other would be like cohen vs. dylan vs. young. i'll let you decide which is which...

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 16:15 (nine years ago) link

I think on ILM berman would win but maybe someone should just do the poll and find out.

Algerian Goalkeeper, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 17:12 (nine years ago) link

Jason Molina would have to be in the poll too

Algerian Goalkeeper, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 17:21 (nine years ago) link

Callahan got to date Chan Marshall, so he gets a few points for that.

nicky lo-fi, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 18:07 (nine years ago) link

and Dame Darcy.

it's time for the fish in the perculator (Steve Shasta), Tuesday, 12 April 2011 18:12 (nine years ago) link

and lisa carver

kate78, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 18:19 (nine years ago) link

he was also liz taylor's last husband

tylerw, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 18:20 (nine years ago) link

and father of ned raggett

Algerian Goalkeeper, Tuesday, 12 April 2011 18:21 (nine years ago) link

(not really)

Algerian Goalkeeper, Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:06 (nine years ago) link

Jason Molina would have to be in the poll too

Like the dude a lot but he seems...second string?

Anyway that poll would be good

FUN FUN FUN FUN (gbx), Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:11 (nine years ago) link

seems like we are afraid to start the poll for some reason

Mark, Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:13 (nine years ago) link

Wire readers might see it?

Algerian Goalkeeper, Wednesday, 13 April 2011 00:21 (nine years ago) link

three years pass...

haven't had the time to read this yet, but:


circa1916, Thursday, 3 July 2014 15:45 (six years ago) link

I just tried to, yeesh, don't bother.

'arry Goldman (Hurting 2), Thursday, 3 July 2014 15:47 (six years ago) link

six years pass...

I thought this was really good - https://pitchfork.com/news/bill-callahan-bonnie-prince-billy-and-matt-sweeney-cover-hank-williams-jr-listen/

JoeStork, Tuesday, 13 October 2020 03:50 (two weeks ago) link

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