by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Bill Callahan - "Sycamore". It's a song that borrows its guitar-line from the song that James, Donna and cousin Maddy record in the living-room on Twin Peaks. And just like that Twin Peaks number it's a track filled with a diffuse and undirected love. Neither Bill Callahan nor James know who to thank for this moment*, for the magnificence of it, for a hot heart on a cold evening. "There's sap in the trees if you tap 'em / There's blood on the seas if you map 'em." Callahan sings crooked platitudes, half-wisdoms, blind man's advice - and do you have a better idea? He's like the guy at the bar who's toasting the bartender, the mirror, the pint-glasses, the hairdos, the everything. Because nothing is a suitable container for the heat that he's feeling; he might as well just share it how he can, and if it's meaningless at least it's still warm. Only one thing seems to bear even a hint of what it truly is to feel how he does. And that one thing is the word "sycamore". Forget "cellar door". Forget "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious". Callahan borrowed one of my favourite words, but it's ok since he uses it as I would. To hold for a sec the can't-be-held.


1. The drums (Jim White, of course) are a lesson in stealin' my heart by playin' it straight. And the guitar solos (wait for them) are a lesson in stealin' my heart by sayin' it straight.

2. I don't normally criticise like this, but Woke On A Whaleheart is lazy, meandering, and an utter disappointment; this (awesome) song aside, it doesn't hold a candle to Callahan's last (remarkable) record, A River Ain't Too Much to Love. And this makes me very sad.

* Bill Callahan does seem to toy with thanking the Christian "Papa". But not with much gusto.



Cerberus Shoal - "Sweetie". A tundra song, a wandering song, a lover's chant - forlorn but utterly determined. Cerberus Shoal play a long, glinting round, a psych-folk of strum & thrum & bell & sour harmony. Interesting how it sounds like a ghost's song, but is a song for the still-living. The living ghost, I guess. The man with a piece of his heart missing. And "Sweetie"? "Sweetie"!?! It's a term of endearment that belongs at a diner, an aunt-and-uncle's house, or sixties suburbia - what's it doing here on the moor? Our narrator is clearly in over his head.

[from The Whys and The Hows, a split LP by Herman Dune and Ceberus Shoal]


Hi! You might notice something different at Said the Gramophone today. If you don't, try clicking reload a couple of times. Yes, we have a new header image, courtesy of artist (and guest-blogger) Keith Andrew Shore. He sent the image to us a year ago, but it's not til now that we've finally been able to make good on it. We now have two different headers: the familiar gramophone-and-butterflies, by our friend Neale, and Andrew's mesmerised gorilla. Every time you visit Said the Gramophone, one of these images will load at random. And in the coming months we hope to add a few more images to the rotation. Sincere thank-you to Adam R for helping us to get the code working, but really I want to thank Andrew Shore for his patience, generosity, and the flush, coarse brilliance that streaks through all his work. Visit his website to see more - especially notable is his contribution to the new Fantagraphics bestiary, BEASTS, and the accompanying letterpress set at Tiny Showcase.

Posted by Sean at March 16, 2007 9:46 AM

The Cerberus Shoal is the star of the show for me. It keeps reminding me of something but I have such a musical amnesia I can't think of what. 5% Beirut and 5% Dead Can Dance and 5% Deep Forest in that background woodwind panning left and right and 85% something else entirely.

Posted by tuwa at March 16, 2007 10:36 AM

does BOB come crawling over the couch in that bill callhan song? cause i still close my eyes at that part and i don't want to listen to this song if it's going to freak me out.

Posted by george at March 16, 2007 11:06 AM

hahaha. Naw, this one's all White Lodge 'n shit.

Posted by Sean at March 16, 2007 11:09 AM

and the record is really disappointing? i was looking foward to it based on the song "day". you don't like that song? i think it's great.

Posted by george at March 16, 2007 11:09 AM

that song's got a good riddim for it, but c'mon man - it is SO half-assed. everywhere on this record it feels like he's leaning on the tropes he's used to, just the same kind of flimsy metaphors. the poetry doesn't feel worked at all; it doesn't feel spare, it feels banal. point me to something hot or precise on the record (other than on "sycamore", obv). "like tryin' ain't enough" -- PLEASE. it's not.

the first track just makes me kind of ill it's so imprecise.

Posted by sean at March 16, 2007 11:23 AM

i don't know sean, you've got me in a bit of a corner here. i don't know bill callhan's work AT ALL. i just really like that funny little keyboard bit in "day". that's the only song i've heard from the record.

perhaps i should get the last smog record rather than the new bill callahan record?

Posted by george at March 16, 2007 11:41 AM

Oh no! If what you are saying of Woke on a Whaleheart is true, I'll be SO sad. A River Ain't Too Much to Love IS great, and go one album back and gimme Supper. That one had Vessel In Vain, Feather By Feather, etc. If this is Bill Callahan, bring back (smog). Or at least bring back the parenthesis! Let me see the Colts!

"All you wanna do is be the fire part of fire"?!?!? Come. On.

Background vocals?!?! And awful ones at that.

Yes, George, get the last two albums.

Thanks for the tune anyway Sean, best blog in the world.

Posted by mike at March 16, 2007 1:05 PM

Dig the new header.

Posted by ekko at March 16, 2007 6:54 PM

I'm loving all the Twin Peaks references...

Posted by Ryan at March 17, 2007 10:10 AM

love the callahan and the gorilla!!!

Posted by ru at March 17, 2007 10:15 AM

Loved the new Bill Callahan, this sounds pretty lovely anything beyond Smog expect Rad Apple Falls. Such a great record.

Posted by bulut at March 17, 2007 10:20 AM

"Under the Sycamore Tree" is the scary-ass song that Dale hears when he first enters the Black Lodge for that final confrontation in Twin Peaks. I believe Lynch wrote the song. Anybody?

Posted by Don Z at March 18, 2007 4:42 PM

Whoa, I remember cerberus shoal being a pretty typical post-rock this is an impressive curveball, I'd say they sound a bit like Comus now.

Love the new header, I've been thinking of doing a rotating header thing myself but all the illustrators I've contacted disappear as soon as I tell them there's no money involved.

Posted by Moka at March 18, 2007 9:45 PM

I totally disagree with you on the Bill Callahan album.. it's hazy alright (as opposed to lazy), but I think the slightly underwritten, ramshackle feel is deliberate, and it works.. And if you want something precise, how about 'Night'?.. I think that's possibly the most beautiful thing he's done, and it's done & dusted in 3 minutes. Rivers to the Ocean, Diamond Dancer and A Man Needs a Woman Or A Man also jump in among his best tracks, in my book, along with the one you posted. I was disappointed in the record too at first but it's 'grown' more than anything I've heard in the last six months.. I say give it time.

Posted by Richie at March 19, 2007 10:56 PM

Don - 'Sycamore Trees' was indeed written by Lynch, with Angelo Badalamenti. Performed by Little Jimmy Scott, who actually shows up in the Black Lodge, cementing his legend.

PS - This guitar line sounds nothing like James' song, but whatever, I dig the reference.

Posted by Rob at March 26, 2007 6:49 PM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

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