Album Reviews

Album Review: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and The Cairo Gang – The Wonder Show Of The World (Domino)

By | Published on Wednesday 9 June 2010

Bonnie Prince Billy

Although adopting a more sanguine and hopeful approach, his pessimism perhaps tempered with age, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, aka Will Oldham, once again teams up with The Cairo Gang (Emmett Kelly and Shahzad Ismaily) for his new album.

Featured on previous albums, but without being given top billing, here the Gang add the occasional ambling electric guitar, mellifluous harmonies and creeping percussion, and, it seems, the “trust” so often talked about by Oldham in reference to the making of this record. The same trust too that burns in ‘Go Folks, Go’, one of the album’s many highlights, perfectly accentuated by the holistic approach to the recording.

Everything is so touchingly laid out here, with great waves of emotion, such as on ‘Someone Coming Through’ or ‘With Cornstalks’ or ‘Among Them’, from dark (“something’s waiting in the night to grab you and throttle hope from your heart”) to comic lyrics (“the smell of your box on my moustache”), to sensitive instrumentation, making the record feel like a unified whole.

‘Kids’ offers itself up as a perfect denouement to the record, bringing us optimism both sonically and lyrically. It builds and builds from a rather melancholy opening, with Oldham questioning his position in life, perhaps even his creative work, to a gorgeous harmony that seems to sweep away the fear. Concurrently the guitars simmer until they are washed out as the song fades. The lyrics too offer hope as Oldham sings: “Kids… I hope in years to come I will be strapped to the movement of time in such a way that this still makes sense”.

Moments like this are just fractionally too sparse to make this a truly great record, but it is still an impressive piece of work from someone so prolific. SJS

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