On “A Hit,” an uncharacteristically upbeat track on Accumulation: None, Bill Callahan (who records as Smog) sums up his career: I’ll never be a Bowie/I’ll never be an Eno/I’ll only ever be a Gary Numan. As this collection of singles and previously unreleased tracks proves, he’s right on — and not only because his painfully lo-fi sound bears little resemblance to Bowie’s prancing antics. Like Numan, Smog is an innovative but obscure pioneer.

Unlike some rarities collections, which serve as a dumping ground for inferior material and cater only to hardcore fans, Accumulation: None could convey Smog’s unique appeal even to the uninitiated. Its sparse but biting instrumentation, heavy on delicate piano and maudlin organ, sets the beautifully meager mood for near-whispered pronouncements such as There’s a hunger in my hands/I try to rub it in your body/But I don’t believe in this/I don’t believe in you. Less suicidal tracks remain striking, showcasing a weepy country twang and heavyhearted vocal crescendos. Though Accumulation: None has its weak moments, including a bizarre nod to Sir Mix a Lot’s “Baby Got Back,” it capably serves as a helpful sampler for novices and a dramatic encore for devotees.

Categories: Music