Apocalypse Watch: Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse

27 Jun

In April, long before Harold Camping’s billboard prophecy of the Rapture’s arrival last month, Bill Callahan released his latest album, Apocalypse, on Drag City. Hauntingly beautiful and foreboding in its own way, this album has the propensity to get under your skin and take up residence.

Or at least mine. I’ve been listening to this album on repeat for months now, and I still cannot stray too far from its soothing rhythms and deceptively simple lyrics. Callahan’s portrait of a stripped-down life—a place with a “country kind of silence” and populated with bees and colts and buffalo—makes me want to flee the city’s constant hum in search of this dreamy pastoral alternative.

While the sort of idyllic American landscape that Callahan invokes in these songs can seem appealing, it has its darker side too. Nature fights back: bees swarm, cattle turn on their driver, weeds root. And yet through it all Callahan never really makes it clear whether he is warning us about what is to come—and trying to make us take note of the rapidly disappearing beauty that surrounds us—or describing what, he believes, has already been lost. Is the end near? Or has it already arrived?

Harold Camping would argue that we only have until October. The Mayan calendar gives us about a year and a half. Here’s hoping John Cusack’s around, just in case, to save us all.

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