NBHAP Rating: 4,6/5
[one_half last=”yes”]BILL FAY
Who Is The Sender?
Label: Dead Oceans
01. The Geese Are Flying Westward
02. War Machine
03. How Little
04. Underneath The Sun
05. Something Else Ahead
06. Order Of The Day
07. Who Is The Sender?
08. The Freedom To Read
09. Bring It On Lord
10. A Page Incomplete
11. A Frail And Broken One
12. World Of Life
13. I Hear You Calling (Studio Reunion)
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
The story of BILL FAY‘s career has been widely revisited in connection with his quite surprising comeback record Life Is People in 2012. Long story short: The acclaimed British songwriter got famous for a few recordings in the early 70s but still was forgotten about very soon; he vanished and became silent for over 40 years with only few artists crediting his work over the decades (few but prominent ones: WILCO‘s Jeff Tweedy, Jim O’Rourke, NICK CAVE). In 2012 he reappeared out of the blue and his return into the business can’t be discussed without this background, nor can his new record Who Is The Sender?. But, more important than praising him for being back is to now raise the question: Is he back for good with this (kind of) second comeback record?
To be clear about that: BILL FAY‘s music sounds like the echo of music that’s been played 30, 40 years ago; enriched by a certain alternative country touch. The Geese Are Flying Westwards opens up with reduced pianos, BILL FAY‘s soft voice, hushed strings, an organ and a slice of bagpipe – an impressive array of sounds, dressed as orchestral folk, that still boils down to a very simple, fragile construction of a song. It’s this fragility that marks the magic: There’s a very basic understatement in the music, even a shyness at times, that’s hold together by BILL FAY alone; his words are ringing without effort, not forcing the urgency of what he has to say but subtly and wisely underlining that it’s important anyway.
This is the music of a true and gentle heart, not the product of a cold, calculating brain – but it’s pretty straightforward with its themes. BILL FAY‘s not the man for simple accusations but for observations: ‘There’s hawk in the distance/he ain’t praying for forgiveness/it’s his nature to kill/ but mine isn’t/but we all kill in ways/that he doesn’t/as we pay our taxes/ to the war machine’. His spiritual reflections about our world, its wonders and cruelty likewise are based on a strong faith – be it in god, humanity or any other thing that makes us strive; in the end the question for ‘the sender’ that literally hangs above this album is not as important as BILL FAY‘s gratefulness for his/her/its’ creation. Which makes Who Is The Sender? an album of universal themes that are easy to relate to.
Apart from the perfect sounding beauty everywhere there’s also an undeniable strength in songs like How Little with its distorted guitars and sudden feedbacks, whilst BILL FAY stubbornly repeats his mantra ‘it’s all so deep’, nearly drowning in his own admiration for existence. These are moments of bitter ambiguity that really help to see this record as more than just an old man’s late hippie manifesto. If you listen closely, this is not a record about peace, love & understanding but about the struggle to maintain the belief in these necessities. Because that’s what they are, no matter how pale they’ve grown.
Some might accuse BILL FAY of naivete, some might be alienated by his humanists claims. And sure, Who Is The Sender? is an old fashioned album from start to finish and it’s as far away from post modern irony as it gets – but that’s exactly what it makes so beautiful and effortlessly timeless. ‘This I have to believe/ That this world has got to change’ – who could argue with that?
‘Who Is The Sender?’ leaves the impression that BILL FAY’s never been gone – it’s a beautiful and effortlessly timeless record.