New Music: Pond Scum by Bonnie Prince Billy

Right, I haven’t done any posts for a while so I’ll try and finish off some of these ones under the title New Music, I promised I would write about all the new albums I’ve got this year and this one came out right at the start of the year. So I’m really running very late with Pond Scum. I’ve kind-off posted about this before buying it but that’s just about the Prince cover song from this album. So here’s Will Oldham aka Bonnie Prince Billy below holding a little dog with glowing eyes!

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So to some up it quickly first and then get into more detail as we go down the page, I totally love Pond Scum and rate it as the best thing he’s released in a very long time. Bonnie Prince Billy is a very prolific artist, which is totally great for him but as a listener I’ve been a bit careful for years. I just buy the ones that I totally love because it’s a bit of a minefield. I guess that’s just my opinion being my blog but some loves everything he does. I do find it very rare to have an artists/bands that I like/love everything by them. I did see him on his very first Aussie tour which he just played solo all by himself, just like these recording. One of the things with other albums of his is production, the bands etc of the recordings can end up a bit overblown. Stripping it all down to just him and his guitar for Pond Scum is a such a great thing. These are his John Peel session and/or BBC recordings that he did, the three sessions on this one album. Only the first four songs have an extra player, Dave Heumann on baritone guitar and a bit of backing vocals. Those tracks where recorded in 2002, the middle four in 2001 and the last four tracks way back in 1994.

Pond Scum track listing

1. (I was Drunk at the) Pulpit 6:02
2. Death to Everyone 4:14
3. Arise, Therefore 4:03
4. Jolly Five 4:42
5. Beezle 2:27
6. Jolly One 3:31
7. When Thy Song Flows Through Me 2:20
8. The Houseboat (O How I Enjoy the Light) 2:59
9. Trudy Dies 2:43
10. The Cross 2:06
11. Stable Will 2:47
12. The Idol on the Bar 4:03

The songs here are from all his previous albums up to that point in time, around 2001/2 would have been his album Ease Down the Road which none of those tracks appear here, everything here on Pond Scum is from before that. Which can I say now? Is his best songwriting period, another reason why I love this so much. Jollies One and Five is the most newish songs listed here. The Jollies tracks was for a side project around the time he did with The Marquis De Tren aka Mick Turner who’s the guitar player from the Dirty Three. The second time I seen Bonnie Prince Billy play live was with Mick Turner plus Jim White who’s the Dirty Three drummer as the backing band. Both those early two tours were totally amazing shows. Both these tracks lyrics are from poems originally written by Rabindranath Tagore too, you know?

Death to Everyone is for the classic debut Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy album called I See a Darkness. In the interview book called Will Oldham On Bonnie Prince Billy he claimed when he changed his name because he need to plus a full stop mark on the Palace project and start something new under a different name, he did have one album release under his own name Will Oldham before changing it but he was saying in that book he was already thinking about dropping the Palace name but didn’t come up with Bonnie Prince Billy name until after the Joya album was put out, if you buy that album now it’s under Bonnie Prince Billy. All this names and name changing can seem a bit silly really to some people and just making it confusing to people following the music but it seem very important to him and he’s the artist who’s releasing the music so I guess he can if he wants too. Don’t quote me on those bits I’m using from the book, it was a few years ago I did read it but it was pretty great read so I highly recommend it to understand the man and his music. Anyway back to what I was saying which is something like, it means all the other tracks on Pond Scum are from the Palace timeline.

(I was Drunk at the) Pulpit is from the classic debut album from Palace named There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You, it’s very fitting that’s the opening track here. The third song here is the title from the final Palace album. The previously unreleased original track called Beezle is next. When Thy Song Flows Through Me is from an E.P. called Blue Lotus Feet which the very first time he when under the named Bonnie Prince Billy, that track was written by Paramahansa Yogananda too. The Houseboat (O How I Enjoy the Light) is track which only previous available on Lost Blues and Other Songs but originally just called O How I Enjoy The Light. Trudy Dies is also for the same album too. Then comes the Prince cover The Cross which I’ve a post about it already. Stable Will was also from Lost Blues and Other Songs but a fun fact Bryan Rich wrote the song not Will. The Idol on the Bar must be another previously unreleased song too because I can’t find it on any other albums or rare one hiding somewhere else.

I guess because of those various reasons I’ve been really enjoying this album in the last few months, I guess you can’t call it totally new maybe you called it a reissue not that it’s been officially released before but it was record a long time ago. I really have to rate it four and a half out of five. Highly recommend for anyone who loves those early years of Will Oldham but I guess most people would have got it by now so I don’t know who will want to read this almost eight months after the release date?

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