Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Pond Scum
The latest release in a long line of albums from American folk troubadour Will OIdham – recording under other such nom de guerres as Palace and Palace Brother - Pond Scum makes a concerted effort to pick through the wealth of material he has produced since 1993 by restricting this compilation solely to sessions recorded for John Peel.
That undertaking is no mean feat - trying to narrow down an accurate representation from the wealth of Oldham’s varied and fragile output to allow his skills as a storyteller to shine through. Somehow this compilation achieves that aim and gives his work space to breathe; the Peel sessions giving us Oldham stripped back and instrumentally sparse. His recordings as Bonnie "Prince" Billy are usually at their best when morose and doom-laden, like all the best stories, but this compilation still allows rays of sunshine to break through the stormy skies, such as Palace original ‘Arise Therefore’. Highlights of the record include ‘(I Was Drunk At The) Pulpit’, the beautifully sparsely picked version of ‘Stable Will’, and a version of Prince’s ‘The Cross’ which is so suitable ramshackle that it threatens to derail before its two minutes are up.
Pond Scum demonstrates Oldham’s music perfectly, almost to its detriment; the tracks on display do not demonstrate a huge variance in style and tone - they also make you yearn for the days of Peel and his ability to transcend genre and bring you truly unique artists. However, that is the beauty of Oldham’s songwriting – each track feels very familiar but utterly unique within the same breath – and, as such, it is very easy to lump him in with the rest of the new Americana/Folk revivalist. To do so is a mistake. Pond Scum gives you only a snapshot of Bonnie "Prince" Billy, and as such serves as an excellent entry level for anyone wanting to delve a bit deeper into the catalogue.