1993, Music

Julius Caesar (1993) by Smog

When we were discussing Will Oldham’s debut (as Palace Brothers) on the podcast a few weeks ago, someone said it reminded them of Smog. So I approached this record with a very different idea than what I had when I first marked it down to listen to (I knew nothing about it).

And it’s nothing like Palace Brothers, so on first listen I was pretty surprised, I’d like to think in a good way, but I’m not entirely sure.

Bill Callahan has a strong sense of melody that he often hides with weird production (as is common in lo fi/bedroom music). And if I don’t always love his lyrics, at least they’re interesting (if at little sparse for the length of some of the songs). (He’s no Will Oldham, which isn’t a fair comparison but I just wanted to mention that. He’s not exactly a great songwriter.)

And there’s a great degree of musical diversity here for something that is labeled “folk” or singer songwriter.” Most folk singer songwriters do not produce records like this. (It’s as if he’s caught somewhere between Beck the folk singer and Beck the sound collage artist, albeit more lo fi and less sophisticated than that comparison would suggest.)

But the diversity has a downside: like basically every bedroom performer ever, Callahan needs an editor, as there are song fragments here that could have been excised or combined with other fragments. Maybe that would take away some of the charm of the record, but I’m not sure that it needs to be as long as it is.

I’ve been going back and forth on this. It’s full of ideas – far more than from your average singer-songwriter – but the consistency isn’t really there and it does feel as though it’s lacking in refinement (which is probably the point).


All tracks written by Bill Callahan.

  1. “Strawberry Rash” 3:07
  2. “Your Wedding” 2:42
  3. “37 Push Ups” 2:17
  4. “Stalled on the Tracks” 3:24
  5. “One Less Star” 2:59
  6. “Golden” 1:14
  7. “When You Walk” 3:05
  8. “I Am Star Wars!” 2:49
  9. “Connections” 2:10
  10. “When the Power Goes Out” 1:25
  11. “Chosen One” 3:12
  12. “What Kind of Angel” 3:25
  13. “Stick in the Mud” 5:02

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