David Lowery In the Shadow of the Bull
Published Jul 11, 2019David Lowery is the only musician-mathematician to have ever successfully sued Spotify. (A class action suit that he initiated was settled in 2017, according to Billboard.)
By his count, six million streams would earn as much money as 1,000 physical CDs, so Lowery pressed exactly that many copies of In the Shadow of the Bull, and is hawking it only at his shows, abandoning digital distribution for that classic indie model: the merch table.
Lowery is clearly looking back, calling the album the first part of a "musical autobiography." He serves up seven acoustic tales chronologically, as the song's subtitles confirm: "Disneyland Jail, 1977" revisits a teenage mushroom trip; "Mom, I'm Living the Life, 1981" recalls leaving home at 18, years before Lowery would form Camper Van Beethoven and, much later, Cracker.
For the first time in his 35-year career, we get Lowery stripped down, sonically, and emotionally bare, as we detour into the depths of his closet. We drop in on blissful ignorance and wretched self-discovery: There's dad in uniform, leaving for war; there's a conflicted young Lowery watching his first bullfight; there's his stumble into romance, and the destructive aftermath. As he drawls on "Mexican Chickens, 1989": "We slowly grew apart / and I was growing meaner."
Lowery navigates hindsight toward rock bottom and back again, somehow twisting dark memories into campfire sing-alongs. In the Shadow of the Bull is more wry reckoning than sentimental journey. And its heartbreaking conclusion is hardly an ending — Lowery has many chapters yet to tell in his calculated confessional. (Independent)