Sewn to the Sky

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Smog's 1990 debut, Sewn to the Sky, introduces the noisy aesthetic and dark sense of humor of Bill Callahan's early work. According to the liner notes, Sewn to the Sky was recorded on a "dumpster Porta-Studio," and indeed the album wears its cheap, abrasive production values well. Distorted guitars, vocals, and tape collages gain harsh and muddy textures that Callahan uses artfully, ranging from percussive pieces like "Russian Winter" and "Polio Shimmy" to droning, minor-key guitar workouts like "Olive Drab Spectre" and "Hollow Out Cakes." "Confederate Bills and Pinball Slugs" and "Fables" feature more recognizable melodies and song structures, and "Fruit Bats," "Peach Pit," and "The Weightlifter" introduce Callahan's dry, detailed lyrical style (sample lyrics from "The Weightlifter": "His car is red/He's saving for a waterbed/Oh what a love nest that'll be"), but the album's focal point is its pungent sound. Callahan's first album might be miles away from his later work, but it's still an interesting artifact from Smog's earliest, noisiest years.

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