Smog: Knock Knock | Review
The small South Carolina town of Prosperity, pop. 1173, didn’t necessarily seem touched by God’s good grace. It was a strange place for a musician with a growing international following to wind up, but then, Bill Callahan had bounced between a lot of strange places. Born in 1966 in Silver Spring, Maryland, and having spent part of his childhood in the North of England, where his parents did some kind of clandestine work for the NSA, he’d shuffled from city to city—Sacramento, California; Buford, Georgia; Dover, New Hampshire—rarely sticking around for long. Noncommitment came naturally: A three-time college drop-out, he’d picked up the guitar as a teen, given it up out of frustration, and then tried again. By 1997, when he landed in Prosperity, it seemed like the only reason he came was to find a reason to leave.
By this point in his career, Callahan had built a tidy little reputation as Smog. Beginning in the late ’80s, he had put out a handful of self-released tapes on his own Disaster Records, named after one of his zines; by 1992 he’d graduated to Drag City, a fledgling Chicago label cultivating a roster of acts like Pavement, Royal Trux, and Silver Jews—bands that took the willful ethos of American underground rock and flipped it into stubborn high art, scruffy and proudly nonconforming. Not exactly an outsider but definitely not an insider, he occupied a liminal space—making out-of-the-way sounds in out-of-the-way places, forever trailing rock music’s ...
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