Album Club: Smog – Knock Knock

Album: Knock Knock
Artist: Smog

Released 1/12/99

Knock Knock, the seventh album from Smog (AKA Bill Callahan), ranked #233 on our Album Poll. I think only two of us voted for this. In fact, that other person’s inclusion of Knock Knock is what inspired me to think seriously about coming up with a good ballot. It’s just such a good album that I wanted it to place somewhere on the poll results (so I put it at my #1, and I have no shame about gaming the system). Smog started as a true lo-fi artist, self-releasing his first few albums on cassette. He’s carried a minimalist streak throughout his career, even when incorporating more sophisticated instrumentation, and this album is a perfect balance of the two. Soft acoustic guitar and piano alternate with chunky electric guitars that swing and groove. Augmented by string arrangements and a children’s choir Knock Knock is a high point in Callahan’s emotional and musical evolution. His songwriting has always been deeply personal, and although this album is no exception, it’s not as claustrophobic or isolated as previous albums (see “Bathyshpere” from Wild Love for his archetypal statement on isolation). It’s an active album, full of movement, and the desire to do a thing rather than have a thing (“Let’s Move to the “Country” and doubling down to ”Hit the Ground Running”). It’s very loosely a concept album, with these two songs in direct relation to each other, and featuring a mature relationship moving forward, by the end of the album moved on from with serene acceptance. There is an unusual amount of sentimentality here, but it’s undercut with absurdity. It’s emotionally honest, but realistically so.

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