Smog | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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On "Truth Serum," from Smog's latest album Supper (Drag City), Bill Callahan evades queries from an apprehensive lover, singing, "Honey, I love you and that's all you need to know." But it's not like he can't supply details when he wants to--it's his gift for nuance that makes him one of the most compelling of contemporary songwriters. He rarely tackles obvious themes and favors evocation over declamation; when he sings "And the rain washed the price / Off of our windshield," the only lyrics to "Driving," it comes off as a hypnotic meditation on getting lost in emotion. As usual, Callahan's songs look at bleak domestic situations through a lens of existential ambiguity. In "Morality" he contemplates an affair but wonders, "What would my wife say / If I was married?" "Our Anniversary" anatomizes a miserable relationship in which the partner who wants to split is forced to stay because "you've hidden my keys." In contrast to the harrowing vignettes, the playing is more solid and accessible than ever before, and Callahan has never demonstrated better control of his limited vocal abilities, using clipped phrasing with the precision of the early Lou Reed. He'll be backed by a trio for this gig. Azita opens with a solo set. Saturday, August 9, 8 PM, Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; 773-728-6000.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mark Nomura.

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