Matt Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy – Superwolves – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Some sixteen years ago Matt Sweeney, at the time probably best known for his work with Billy Corgan in Zwan, released a collaborative album Superwolf with Will Oldham, aka Bonnie Prince Billy. Confused? The album emerged to little fanfare but those who discovered it found one of the most melodic and, well, musical projects Oldham has ever been involved in. Now Sweeney has taken time out from session work with everyone from Iggy Pop to Adele to team up once again with Oldham for a follow-up, Superwolves. Anyone who enjoyed their previous collaboration will love this. It opens with the highly melodic, yet vaguely threatening Make Worry For Me, as Oldham sings “I’ve got monsters inside me that must be born” over Sweeney’s clean, electric guitar. The imagination runs riot. Even when Oldham attempts to play it straight on the following track Good To My Girls, you wonder what he really has in store for them…
Musically, it’s really strong, Shorty’s Ark has a gorgeous melody and sound that’s as full-sounding as some of Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison, or some of Bill Callahan’s later work. Those who like Oldham at his most stripped-down won’t be disappointed here, there is a multitude of this kind of material such as the brief, downbeat My Popsicle and the almost indie-goes-Latin-flavoured Watch What Happens. Resist the Urge belies its bleak subject matter with an upbeat, warm melody. The album is not without the odd jarring moment in the shape of the jaunty strumalong Hall of Death or the sparse ballad God Is Waiting with a final, unsettling sting in the tale as Oldham sings “God can fuck herself”.
The pair have recorded a decent cover of Paul Brady’s I Am A Youth Inclined To Ramble, where a clean sounding acoustic duets with a slightly gnarlier electric as Oldham patiently and enthusiastically belts out the song. Later, There Must Be A Someone is almost gospel while the two and a half minute My Blue Suit is a throwback to Bonnie Prince Billy in his I See A Darkness period, and is as beautifully insular-sounding as anything Nick Drake ever recorded. My Body Is My Own has an almost classic sounding melody, it sounds like some long-forgotten buried folk song. The last quarter of the album is all relaxed contented vibes right up till the relatively dark closer Not Fooling.
Though the album is not particularly long at 44 minutes there’s a lot to process here with fourteen shapeshifting, beguiling and largely beautiful tracks. It’s likely to get under your skin, and stay there for some time.
1. Make Worry For Me
2. Good To My GIrls
3. God Is Waiting
4. Hall of Death
5. Shorty’s Ark
6. I Am A Youth Inclined To Ramble
7. My Popsicle
8. Watch What Happens
9. Resist The Urge
10. There Must Be A Someone
11. My Blue Suit
12. My Body Is My Own
13. You Can Regret What You Have Done
14. Not Fooling
Make Worry For Me