Sunday, June 25, 2006
Scott Walker - The Drift
Scott Walker, "Clara"
Scott Walker, "Hand Me Ups"
A little change of pace here, as I haven't done a good job of staying up on new releases lately. Here's an album that may not have come across your radar screen, Scott Walker's The Drift. It's understandable that people weren't sleeping in front of Tower for a midnight purchase, as Walker sits on the periphery. His music is avant-garde in all the senses that you imagine, from the dark lyrics about death and genocide to free jazz and classical sounds to limited coverage in magazines like Wire. Despite the difficult tag, I hope that everyone gives this a chance, as it's bound to sound like nothing you've heard before and let you know that difficult is not a dirty word.
Scott Walker is an immensely interesting figure in his own right, far more interesting than my boring intro would imply. Walker actually was quite famous in the early 60s as a Sinatra-type figure, a crooner and ladies man, a teen idol if you will. He was initally discovered in the late 50s by Eddie Fisher, Philly boy and one of Liz Taylor's many husbands. He did the teen heartthrob schtick for awhile, then formed The Walker Brothers in the 60s. They did pop ballads for the most part, singing many Bacharach-David compositions (that's the clearest connection to this blog). Once they broke up, Walker went solo and allowed a darker side to come out. He maintained a high level of popularity, even having his own show on British TV. However, the further he got from his pop origins and deeper into art-house cinema and new music, the smaller his audience got. Since the late 70s, Walker has intermittently returned with a new album, done on his own terms.
The Drift is the latest CD to appear from the man, only his third since 1979, his first on the legendary label 4AD. It's nearly an overwhelming work to deal with, the work of a man uninterested in appealing to any particular group or satisfying the market. It's got that Modernist, art for art's sake feel, which rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Could it be described as pretentious? Maybe, although I would think that's an attempt to negate him before ever hearing the man out. His songs are bleak and dark, conjuring up images of bleeding bodies, viruses and facsism. For me, this fits pretty well with the mood of the world today, for these fucked-up times. Best of all, he doesn't try to make you believe anything, teach you any easy lessons or force-feed the listener his politics. I like that, that interests in a way that Radio 4 or Mr. Lif never could. The uncertainty and lack of answers seem so much more real and human than what passes for political music.
The music plays right along with the dark lyrics, ranging from noise (a la Merzbow or Ground Zero) to modern classical (say, Webern). There are moments when you feel like you are in a European cabaret, with Walker's distinct, overwrought voice. Most of all, the abrupt change in sounds sticks out the most. From the quietest, most gentle part, suddenly you find yourself in a drums and guitar storm. It's shocking and disconcerting, but it works.
I recommend buying this album and giving it a chance. It's probably unlike anything you've heard so far this year or will hear all year. It might not make onto your system in your candy-painted car, but that don't mean you should avoid it. Buy a copy here and take a chance. For those who want to listen a little more, check out 7and7is and La Blogoth que mp3blog (French blog, yeah!) for more mp3s and thoughts. Or check out this review of the album by Dominique Leone at Pitchfork.
-Missed a ton of great events this past weekend, will slowly ratchet the events section back up this week. Tonight, R5 is putting on a great show at the Church, as Espers are back in their hometown headlining. I will get to these guys in a future, but this is a great chance to hear one of the city's finest. Opener Brightblack Morning Light have been getting a ton of buzz lately, making this a great free-folk bill.
-For my DC people, check out Philly's own and Pound for Pound favorite The Yah Mos Def opening for Limp Wrist at Warehouse Next Door (please say that's not the name of the club) tonight. Place is 1017 7th Street NW, starts at 8:30, I know that there ain't much goin' on in DC, so get your asses out.
-Forgive me for the lack of Dylan or Dead today, but I'm getting my shit together and didn't want to rush one of those posts. I also want to take the time to apologize to MC, her friends, her family who read my initial hiatus post. I never intended to worry anyone or invade anyone's privacy with that, or scare anyone about myself. It was a post put up in haste that I wish I could take back. Just wanted to take a break from the blog, didn't say that well. Sorry, I truly did not mean to offend or upset anyone.