Period: 1993, First Studio Recorded, Self Produced
I was born the year Julius Caesar released. I find this appropriate because this is where you can see him evolve. That probably means nothing, but it makes it easy to remember when the album came out. Anyway, it’s 1993, his Smog project has made it to the big-time. He has a studio now, more instruments and recording devices that aren’t consumer-grade 80s tape recorders. He must have changed everything! No. He actually still goes out of his way for experimentalism. Bill even made sure he was the one touching the boards and the album still has a fucking chair on it. Julius Caesar is very much his album.
“Strawberry Rash” may not seem like anything special, but this is the loose style that will come to form as his own into a tighter, more refined sound. You could just as easily discount this track when you hear “Your Wedding”, a style that is totally unfamiliar to that of his past. It builds. And it builds a mountain to one of the most heartbreaking lines he’s written. “I’m gonna be drunk, so drunk at your wedding.” It’s repeated and it feels wrong; you feel bad. Underneath the track, which is surrounded by a cello and guitar, you can then hear sounds of drilling and trash cans banging. There’s something being let loose there, and it feels cool.
The beginning of “One Less Star” is what Callahan likely intended everything on Forgotten Foundation to sound like. Sure, having the studio really helps out, but there was an awareness to the lyrics that didn’t feel like how snobby/bad “Evil Tyrant” comes off as.
“I Am Star Wars!” is awesome. It’s not the grime of 1990 Smog and it’s also not the soulful wisdom of 2011 Bill Callahan, “I Am Star Wars!” is it’s own glitchy rock track that makes me smile with his vocal guitar impressions. He really is just fucking around at this point, and now it’s actually enjoyable rather than pretentious. “When The Power Goes Out” is basically a punk track. He sings “When the power goes out in the grocery store, just take, take, take.” It’s thoughtful punk music, made for your health and well-being. ”What Kind of Angel”, though, is his signing off as a lyricist and folk artist. This feels wholly Smog. It’s a human song, specifically human male, something that I can finally relate to as a living entity.
Julius Caesar, say what you will about its lingering experimentalism, is Bill Callahan’s turning point into something complete.