Sounding like an opening for a Kill Bill film, Bill Callahan’s “Drover” begins in a solemn and tense style. His thick, booming American accent leads you into a world of desert isolation, and then he releases classical guitar twangs, violins and maracas. “One thing about this wild, wild country – it takes a strong, strong – it breaks a strong, strong mind.” It is focused and serious stuff, but never strays from being pure and simplistic. If there’s one thing that Bill Callahan does well, it’s being organic. Nope, no tricks here.
This might be his strongest material yet. At 44 years young, Callahan shows a noticeable contemplative maturity. “America,” loosely hung together by distorted guitars and vague ditty interludes, is experimental, but also deliberate and powerful. Callahan’s mastery of the quiet rocker is exceptional here; there’s a chemistry that makes you sit up and listen to what seems to be the most innocuous of guitar jams.
The western themes on the first half of this record peel away on later songs. A signpost for this is “Riding for the Feeling,” which blends slow, back burner guitar solos and Callahan’s distinguished voice with exceptional class. He delves into themes of lethargy and self-awareness: “In conclusion, living is easy when you’ve got somewhere you need to be.”
Apocalypse is ultimately one of those albums that takes careful listening, the dominant activity in whatever you’re doing. Callahan makes ‘em the way they used to: requiring attention, patience and dedication. Thankfully however, the man of many western tales doesn’t make it that hard.