PRINT Summer 1996



Under any name (PALACE, Palace Brothers, etc.), Will Oldham’s music has always been vital for exploring the weird phenomena of desire and doubt (and their similarity). On Arise Therefore Oldham shows that even this late in the day these subjects still have vast territories left to chart. His plangent voice has never been more lustrous or lusty, recalling fading newsprint photographs, old porn, the dazzle of late-spring mornings still crisp with frost after a night of sweat—in short, the bittersweet postcoital rush, when the one in your bed has just left you to yourself for who knows how long. While Arise Therefore has tunes, like “Give Me Children,” that harken to Palace at their most desolate, from beginning to end it is claimed by a calm.

What makes all of this crucial is that instead of continuing to orbit beautifully outward (Viva Last Blues was, in many ways, as prime a rock ’n’ roll album as there has been) Oldham has journeyed inward, accompanied only by Ned Oldham’s bass, David Grubb’s wandering piano, and an endlessly surprising Maya Tone drum machine. Amid all his considerations, Oldham’s lyrics reveal manhood to be raw, improbably sweet, and yet strange and dangerous to know.

His project is a thorny pursuit of immediacy. In a recent interview in Raygun magazine, Oldham said that “the records come out because they’re a manifestation of the need to recognize a reason to continue, as opposed to stopping.” This motivation reassures somehow and echoes throughout Arise Therefore, Palace’s most beautiful album to date, which begins “How could one ever think anything’s permanent?”