Thursday 25 June 2009

Wrestling with Scott Walker

My old friend down in Devon, a never-faling source of enlightenment, has sent me some recordings - on those dear old familiar old tape cassettes, naturally - including one of Scott Walker's 2005 album The Drift. Walker, of course, is famous for having given up (or rather fled from) being a teen idol, becoming a great balladeer and interpreter of Jacques Brel among others, then, having spent long year staring into the abyss and cultivating an exquisite blend of pain and paranoia, becoming a cult artist - no, the cult artist's cult artist, releasing a tortured and inaccessible album every decade or so. Somewhere along the way, I lost, as it were, the drift - but now I have The Drift. This is an album that makes the bleaker moments of Winterreise sound like a Chas & Dave singalong. It is so punishing in its demands (and often in its assault on the ears) that I can only handle one track at a time. Having negotiated Cossacks Are - a kind of cut-up of found phrases chanted against an alienating soundscape - and the truly nightmarish Clara (Benito's Dream), about Mussolini's mistress and her grisly fate, I have just managed Jesse, a terrible lament built around Elvis Presley talking to his stillborn dead twin. If - and only if - you're feeling strong, you can experience that one here. There is no doubting that this is amazing stuff - dark beyond dark, histrionic beyond histrionic. Magnificent? Absurd? Both? Treading a fine line between the two? I don't know, and I rather doubt I ever will - but I'm glad, in a stunned, shellshocked kind of way, to have had the experience. One track at a time, I carry on...

1 comment:

  1. I'm waiting for Girls Aloud to do their atonal cut-up album. Perhaps an interpretation of 'Finnegan's Wake' using only the harpsichord, bagpipes and obscenities screamed through a megaphone.