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Bonnie Prince Billy - Beware

  by Chris O'Toole

published: 4 / 3 / 2009

Bonnie Prince Billy - Beware
Label: Domino Records
Format: CD


Surprisingly vibrant new album from Will Oldham, under his moniker of Bonnie Prince Billy, which, while losing none of his usual darkness, proves to be more hopeful in its tone than his past work

On something of a victory lap over the past year – following the acclaimed release of ‘Lay Down in the Light’ – Bonnie Prince Billy shows no sign of letting his frantic release schedule slip. Here, releasing the latest effort under his current and seemingly permanent moniker, Will Oldham appears to have discovered a renewed sensation of vigour in his work – if not an outright sense of fun. While the black comedy that has infused his many guises – through Palace Brothers, Superwolf and his eponymous work - has always been mixed with a maudlin air, ‘Beware’ has an almost self-aware sense of release as Oldham runs once again through his threadbare tales of heroes with broken hearts and noble brows. From the very opening of ‘Beware Your Only Friend’ a buoyant – while not outright joyous – feeling fills the record. Accompanying the usual sombre, even macabre, strings are bursts of electric guitar, violin and horns. The optimism filters through into the following ‘You Can’t Hurt Me Now’ (which features a delightful xylophone) and ‘My Life’s Work’ – both of which continue the hopeful tone of the record. While it can never be so straightforward with Oldham – with traces of darkness still lurking at the edges at the recording – it appears the latest incarnation of his career has finally found an element of redemption. Oldham here appears to be evaluating his work to date, and, while not growing complacent, finding a certain degree of satisfaction in what he has achieved. Choruses surge while once they would wane, although the subject matter has remained constant throughout. One wonders how much heartache and single individual can tolerate in their lives, but Oldham appears to be close to reaches of possibility. Of course this only makes Bonnie Prince Billy stronger as a performer, with each hour of lonely darkness filtering directly into the oak ached voice that has been his calling card for over a decade. ‘Death’s Final’ and ‘Heart’s Arms’ are in a case in point, with Oldham pouring over the finer details of human weakness in the face of eternal strife – emerging with a knowing smile on his face. For those unfamiliar with the canon, the best way to enjoy Bonnie Prince Billy is still chronologically – taking in early triumphs including 'Master and Everyone' – but for initiated there is something new here. Will Oldham is still present as the beating heart of the material, but the orchestral flourishes, supporting cast and boisterous tempo help to create a thoroughly enjoyable listen. While it can sometimes be a struggle to plough through some of the more esoteric material released over the years, recent Bonnie Prince Billy – be it ‘Lay Down in the Light’ or ‘Beware’ – has an accessibility which rewards the years of discord listener and performer have endured in tandem.

Track Listing:-
1 Beware Your Only Friend
2 You Can't Hurt Me Now
3 My Life's Work
4 Death Final
5 Heart's Arms
6 You Don't Love Me
7 You Are Lost
8 I Won't Ask Again
9 I Don't Belong To Anyone
10 There Is Something I Have To Say
11 I Am Goodbye

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live reviews

Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 4/8/2010
Bonnie Prince Billy - Shepherds Bush Empire, London, 4/8/2010
Chris O' Toole wonders if Bonnie Prince Billy's long period of creative energy has finally come to an end after watching a sluggish show with the Cairo Gang at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London
Babylon, Ottawa, 27/8/2003

digital downloads


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