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Wednesday, Jun 25 1997
A cult of melancholy has grown up around the minstrelsy of Bill Callahan, guiding force behind Smog. His sixth full-length, Red Apple Falls, marks the denouement of an intense period of recording activity over the past year or so, which also includes The Doctor Came at Dawn and Kicking a Couple Around. Despite critical and popular acclaim, the great confessional bard of indiehood is torn between success and misery. On the album's closer, "Finer Days," he bemoans his current "passage into the finer days" because "all of my old friends want me to stay down, down, down with them .... And so I find myself isolated." One could reasonably add: once again. It seems the mere hint of uplift Callahan has begun to experience as a pop star ultimately perpetuates his overarching sense of alienation. But this alienation, or more specifically, the way he speaks to themes of disaffection, is precisely what provides so many fans with some degree of hope. On "To Be of Use," the artist admits, "Most of my fantasies are of making someone else come ... to be of some hard, simple, undeniable use." How then will all this pan out? In an isolated cell with Syd Barrett next door and the ghost of Sylvia Plath hovering in a darkened corner?

-- Sam Prestianni

Smog performs Friday, June 27, at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell. Tickets are $7 (in advance) and $8 (at the door); call 885-0750.

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Sam Prestianni


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