Bonnie Prince Billy- Pond scum

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When Will Oldham first recorded the song "(I Was Drunk at the Pulpit)" more than 20 years ago, he was going by the name Palace Brothers. The song, from his 1993 album There Is No-One What Will Take Care of You, was a meditation on faith and fallibility. With its dense imagery and antiquated language, it gave the impression of an actor treading the footboards, performing the role of an old-time singer, staging a spiritual reckoning.

Around the same time, Oldham recorded a very different version of "Pulpit" for a Peel Session, and it shows just how malleable his songs are. This performance, which opens his new odds-and-ends comp Pond Scum, is slow and deliberate. An acoustic and an electric guitar noodle solemnly. And Oldham’s voice is deeper and less distant; he pushes it up to the front of the song to let the listener relish the richness and texture that age has bestowed on him. Oldham isn’t an actor anymore, but a sinner experiencing a spiritual crisis in real time.

"(I Was Drunk at the) Pulpit" is a potent opener to Pond Scum, which collects a few old Peel Sessions into a surprisingly affecting meditation on the nature of faith. As these two versions of the song prove, it’s not a redundancy, but a compilation that emphasizes new ideas and overlooked themes in Oldham’s prodigious catalog. Oldham favors retrospectives that tweak the very idea of retrospectives: Greatest Palace Music, from 2004, featured his Bonnie "Prince" Billy alias covering songs by his Palace persona, and he followed it up eight years later with an EP of self-covers called Now Here’s My Plan. Even as they condense and summarize his catalog, these releases are his most esoteric, rewarding, and engaging in the context of his career, when a listener can grasp the various allusions Oldham is making to himself. (Pitchfork review)

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