Beware - Bonnie "Prince" Billy
Metascore
74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 32 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 23 out of 32
  2. Negative: 0 out of 32
  1. 92
    The mood is undeniably American, and Bonnie (or Oldham) seems incomprehensibly at peace with his hallmark solitude. [Winter 2009, p.91]
  2. This is pure non-homogenised, heart-on-sleeve, downright meaningful music, the sort of thing The Wombats cry themselves to sleep over on a nightly basis. For that alone it’s worth a tenner of anybody’s money.
  3. Beware emulates and elaborates on the familiar, and Oldham's strengths as a songwriter and bandleader shape the album into something beautiful.
  4. His songs float along like dust in the afternoon sun, less driven to move forward than just to be.
  5. The new Bonnie Billy record, Beware, is fuller in every sense of the word, from the choir of background singers answering Oldham on the opening track ('Beware Your Only Friend') to the way Oldham stops that song cold for a muted interlude.
  6. Beware may be the best country-rock album David Allan Coe never got around to making himself.
  7. Beware is a 40-odd minute work that ebbs, flows and carries you along perfectly.
  8. 80
    It is simply beautiful. [May 2009, p.96]
  9. 80
    Beware is a body record,, a playful and intimate piece that lyrically and melodically invites you in, where his remote personae have occasionally served to push one away. [Apr 2009, p.80]
  10. If the man’s curious oeuvre hasn’t already provided reason enough to pay attention, it’s doubtful Beware will convert anyone to the fold. But for those already attuned to Oldham’s songcraft, Beware is a rich and fulfilling work from a man who seems to have a paranormal grasp on human nature, with all the sensuality, God-fearing, tummy-rubbing and head-scratching that implies.
  11. Some will long for Oldham’s minimalist era, but Beware is still an engaging record from one of the indie world’s best songwriters.
  12. Beware is one of the more playful entries in the Bonnie "Prince" Billy canon. It's also one of his fullest sounding records.
  13. Dark things stir beneath the surface as alt.country figurehead Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy releases umpteenth solo record.
  14. Beware is supremely sequenced, and is possibly Oldham's finest album yet.
  15. The record rarely seems overcrowded; it confidently puts everyone to selective use. “Beware,” generally excellent if occasionally meandering, has an outer color and an inner truth; it’s never what it seems.
  16. With the help of an expert new backing band, Oldham wrings a polished grace out of this material, from ballads ('I Don't Belong to Anyone') to smoldering anthems ('Afraid Ain't Me').
  17. The enigmatic nature of his music aside, Oldham invariably sounds like he's having fun making it, which makes Beware a warning only to those who place too high a value on simplistic clarity.
  18. The resultant songs have a familiarity that aims them toward the back of your brain but an internal energy that prods them into prominence with repeated listens.
  19. Beware is exactly the album to be expected from Oldham, now, as he begins to investigate the limelight, as he trots out his friendships with gothic southern troubadours (Jim White), say, or free jazz northerners (Rob Mazurek and Nicole Mitchell), wondering whether to scamper back to the stern nobody-ness Drag City allows him or push on expanding his solipsistic world.
  20. This clash of the sincere and the facetious that makes Beware such a disconcerting album.
  21. Oldham continues to reinvent his landscape as a relevant artist with each attempt, and Beware tests his ability to weave different instruments into the fabric of an Americana record without breaking the mold entirely.
  22. Oldham's brand of folk music is certainly old enough and weird enough, but there are noticeably fewer moments of beauty and fewer lyrical revelations than on his best material.
  23. 70
    Oldham remains mostly untroubled on Beware, accompanied by an array of instruments--marimba, cornet, banjo, and flute swirl around placid country-tinged ruminations.
  24. Beware is sloppy in a back porch way. Which can be very appealing, but there's something missing here. [Winter 2009, p.70]
  25. Beware displays enough of Oldham's lyrical and musical guile to ensure that if Beware does become wallpaer, it's lead-laced anaglypa. [Apr 2009, p.100]
  26. The bleaker sounds on this album suit Oldham better, with 'Heart's Arms'' sad, ghostly drone showing how less can say more.
  27. Ultimately Beware’s designation as a "big" record feels arbitrary--it is polished and competent, but at the same time disappointingly bland.
  28. While this means that all is not lost (or perhaps more accurately, saved), it does leave the listener with a sense that he's not sure whether he wants to embrace a new direction or not, resulting in an album that is somewhat disjointed and ultimately unfulfilling.
  29. Ultimately, it’s the combination of thwarted ambition and lack of proper recognition, which is apparent, that prevents Beware from ever fully taking flight as a listening experience.
  30. An obvious problem of the arrangements is that "big" often means cluttered, and most of the songs feel like they should have finished a verse and a chorus sooner.
  31. The unspecific lyrics are flatly whined in the manner of a depressed old codger falling asleep. Tempos stay sluggish and melodies meander, often parodying bygone rural music — funeral hymn here, waltz there.
  32. Beware only sounds like loose, organic country, when really it proves just another contrived piece to the Bonnie “Prince” Billy brand.
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 13 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 3
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 3
  3. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. clayh
    Apr 4, 2009
    9
    Solid effort by Billy. This album is not as uneven as "Lie Down in the Light". It seems more grounded, more real and yes it's good.
  2. shawnw
    Mar 19, 2009
    10
    At last heartfelt, direct lyrics that have understandable meaning and depth. i can't imagine he will ever make another record, perhaps At last heartfelt, direct lyrics that have understandable meaning and depth. i can't imagine he will ever make another record, perhaps an instrumental one. Full Review »
  3. christianp
    Mar 19, 2009
    9
    Everything this man touches is aching and lovely.