Oldham derives a perverse pleasure from his art of darkness.
“I’ve been with you for a fairly long time”, announces Will Oldham at the start of ‘May It Always Be’. “May I call you mine?”
In its tremulous, sneery little way this is romance Bonnie Prince Billy style. If 1999’s ‘I See A Darkness’ was the one-time Palace Brother’s assault on unrequited love – ‘Ease Down The Road’ is
his frigid [I]Kamasutra[/I].
Where there’s love, all Oldham can see is dirt, depravity and the grinning face of death. In fact those are the bits he likes the best. Hence the sick pleasure that underlies the otherwise faultlessly beautiful ‘Break Of Day’. He knows he’s dumping his true love in the morning, and in his sly, twisted way he’s looking forward to it.
That’s his unique slant. While some have dismissed him as an old misery-guts, Oldham derives a perverse pleasure from his art of darkness. He loves disguising his most misanthropic moments as love songs; plonking incongruous, deadpan lines in unusual places.
“I hate myself when I’m alone”, he confesses at the end of ‘Break Of Day’ before quietly sniggering off to the next song. It’s eerie, it’s powerful – it’s not quite human.
In stark contrast the music is sweeter than anything you’d ever expected from Oldham. ‘Lion’s Lair’ and ‘Careless Love’ have the twilit richness you’d expect from Chris Isaak or Lyle Lovett – not their evil little brother.
Beneath the staggering knack for simple tunes and the strangulated gift for writing beautiful words, everything on this truly brilliant record will show you, Oldham is a callous little scumbag who will only be there for you to chuckle with barely concealed malice in your darkest hour.
Once you have risen above
this world of worms and come to see love and life as nothing but a desperately predictable set of reflexes, you’ve risen to the level of the gods. And then? Well, like Will Oldham, nothing can ever touch you.