Smog | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The advantage of being a one-man band is that you answer to no one but yourself. On his 1993 full-length Julius Caesar, and on the new six-song Burning Kingdom (both on Chicago's own Drag City Records), Bill Callahan--aka Smog--lays bare an idiosyncratic sensibility that is as disturbing as it is engaging. In the homespun, lo-fi style of the high DIY era he helped instigate, Callahan spins tangled yarns around his sundry preoccupations. On Julius Caesar he celebrates a new mother looting "a cartful of Pampers" during a grocery store blackout ("When the Power Goes Out") and laments a lover who told him he could "do it without protection" ("What Kind of Angel"). On Burning Kingdom he treats us to a vision of his mother smoking pot in the bath, her butt squeaking the tub, while his father watches "vague lesbian scenes" in the study ("My Family"). "Don't go in," Callahan warns himself, "he gets too mean." Musically, Smog's recordings range from folky acoustic guitar and erratic percussion to baroque arrangements for cello and keyboards. There's no telling what form Smog will take for this show: at last summer's Drag City Invitational, I'm told, Callahan was accompanied by a band, and last month at Lounge Ax he was joined on guitar by a young Pia Zadora in a floor-length evening gown and three-inch heels. (Callahan--in a casual black suit coat--mostly played a small, Casio-style synthesizer.) But regardless of who's onstage, the dominant presence will undoubtedly be Bill Callahan's obsessions. Also appearing is Guided by Voices; suffice it to say that if you're curious about what's happening in indie rock these days, this show should hit all the major points. Saturday, 10 PM, Lounge Ax, 2438 N. Lincoln; 525-6620.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Cynthia Dall.

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