Pitchfork on Bonnie Prince Billy: I think the new Bonnie Prince Billy album is quite – no, very – good. It’s re-recordings of his older Palace tracks in a warm, country-rockish style, faintly reminiscent of early-70s Dylan. Having mostly forgotten the old tracks I was able to enjoy the new versions unreservedly. I can quite understand fans not liking the new record, though some of the descriptions I’ve read makes it sound like he’d got Mutt Lange in to produce and Shania on backing vocals – in fact Greatest Palace Music is no more ‘overproduced’ or glossy than that Gene Clark reissue from last year which a lot of people seemed to like. Come to think of it it’s hardly more produced than Oldham’s own previous BPB records.

This reviewer thinks the new record is very bad indeed: fair enough. But the tortuous way he wrestles with this dislike is very odd. The whole piece seems like a good example of simply worrying too much about what artists are thinking. The first paragraph is classic self-denying doublethink: reviewer buys record, loves it, discovers it’s a re-recording of old classics and suddenly realises his error.* The last paragraph offers the frankly bizarre argument that the listener’s “struggle” with the Bonnie Prince Billy record and the realisation that Will Oldham must surely hate his audience is where “this record finds its wisdom and radiance”. I don’t buy it. If it’s an awful record, it’s an awful record** – no need to don the hairshirt and claim that sitting through it is some kind of transcendence!

*I do this sort of thing myself of course, cf. the Pay TV write-up below. I wish I didn’t though. You can’t break free from the things you find out about artists and records but it’s always good to stay as faithful as you can to your gut reactions.

**Luckily it’s not an awful record and is in fact pretty easy to sit through and enjoy. What I’d be really interested in is the reaction of somebody who’d never heard any other Palace records, though.