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Album review: Will Oldham – Songs Of Love And Horror

PUBLISHED: 12:24 23 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:24 23 October 2018

Songs of Love and Horror is the first record released under Will Oldham's real name since  1997's Joya

Songs of Love and Horror is the first record released under Will Oldham's real name since 1997's Joya

Archant

The Palace Music and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy puppetmaster offers a stripped-back revue of his work.

After two albums of cover versions in 2017, Oldham steps out from behind his Palace Music and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy alter-egos and into the glaring light with Songs Of Love And Horror, released alongside a book of the same name 25 years in the making, collecting lyrics from his celebrated career on the cooler margins of indie-folk.

The dozen songs here pose the tantalising question for fans of whether, 20 years on from the last record in his own name, they reveal any more of the ‘real’ Oldham without his monikers as masks.

Depending on your outlook, the answer is either obscured or revealed by an underwhelmingly uniform tone and general lack of dynamism in his soft vocal delivery and carefully-picked acoustic guitar strings.

Doubtless the intent of stripping back the originals’ arrangements is to throw his lyrics into sharper focus, but some might question whether they needed this at all, or if in fact they lose a measure of potency in this record’s blanket, twee folk treatment.

This makes minor tinkering, like Oldham briefly whistling in Only Someone Running, or the fuzzy, cassette-tape production of Party With Marty (Abstract Blues), feel almost daring.

Then comes Strange Affair, a cover of Richard and Linda Thompson’s 1978 classic reflection on age, loneliness and regret, sung a capella and arguably all the more powerful and uncomfortable for it.

One for the fans to pick over.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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