Bonnie Prince Billy, I See A Darkness (Palace Records)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

Bonnie Prince Billy
I See A Darkness
Palace Records
By: Eric G.

Will Oldham's latest incarnation is a fair share darker than his recent solo efforts. Since dropping the Palace moniker Oldham's output has been more uplifting than we've come to expect. I See A Darkness brings that recent trend to a halt. Oldham's brittle, haphazard whimper is in down beat mode again, harking back to the second self-titled Palace Brothers record. His songs cover simple themes: love, friendship, death, and longing with a subtle devil-may-care approach that often ignores things like tune or pitch in favor of pure emotional impact.

Oldham has experimented with full backing bands before, but this album is much starker than Viva Last Blues or even There Is No One What Will Take Care Of You. I See A Darkness starts off in a jaunty mood compared to the rest of the album with "A Minor Place"- a humble ode with a familiar refrain that sounds like it was passed down several generations of mountain families. "Nomadic Revery (All Around)" builds into a wailing climax with electric guitars rivaling Oldham's haunting chorus of pleas: "O All Around."

Oldham manages to tear at your heartstrings with each record without repeating himself. His devastating tunes flow freely on this album. He takes you to places you don't expect to need to care about. His lyrics are obtuse, but his tone is understood: "Death to everyone is gonna come/and it makes hosing much more fun" ("Death To Everyone"). Oldham is a clever craftsman who plays the role of a simpleton. He comes across doe-eyed and innocent, but he is fully aware of his impact and his ability. I See A Darkness is an affecting and moving album. Viva Bonnie 'Prince' Billy.

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