Bonnie "Prince" Billy: "I See a Darkness"


By Dom Sinacola | 10 August 2012

Though the entirety of Now Here’s My Plan confirms Will Oldham’s restlessness as his sincerest strength, the re-purposed “I See a Darkness” is the EP’s highlight for demonstrating how versatile of a songwriter this guy is. Or—not simply that: how effortlessly he can churn out these melodies with just such fucking amazing legs. Like, gams for days. The song’s over ten years old, on an album I’d consider one of my favorites ever, which means I probably have every derelict and crepuscular corner of it memorized, and yet how could I have never imagined it like this? It’s not like he stripped the original to its roots and rebuilt it for far less stressful consumption; he just sped it up, brightened it a smidgen, alighted with a riskier positivity. Asked women to sing on it. And in dampening the dread that so compelled Johnny Cash, that still knuckles a lump in my throat—I mean, picture it: drinking in a poorly lit bar on a poorly lit day, talking with the fella on an adjacent stool about drinking in a poorly lit bar, trying to somehow spit out the right words to confide in him the rising, uninteresting tide of anxiety and agony you’ve discovered within yourself recently because there’s no one else to confide in, but only able to call it something as mundane as “darkness,” which of course we all bear day to day, some better than others, and in this failure to communicate you realize this “darkness” has already phagocytically consumed the way in which you relate to this other human in this poorly lit bar, leaving no way out and nothing to console you but the clarity of a yet-unanswered pain and the slim “hope that someday buddy, we have peace in our lives,” which only stalls the realization that “someday” is yet another shade of the darkness—Bonnie “Prince” Billy has done something amazing. Something magical. He’s transubstantiated the loneliest song I’ve ever heard into a celebratory clarion call, a little communal anthem of optimism and warmth. “Well, you’re my friend,” he’s said in every version; where once he sounded as if he was convincing a stranger, today he’s fist-bumping his best buddy.