Singer leaves hugely-popular boy band. Enjoys critically-lauded solo career and surpasses his former fame. A familiar narrative. But we're not talking Robbie Williams here.
Scott Walker is the teen idol who queered his pitch by quitting vocal group the Walker Brothers at their height and recasting himself as pop's original boy blue. A series of numbered solo albums, between 1967 and 1969, began with covers of mordant songs by Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel and became more wilfully obscure as they went on. Since the Eighties, Walker has released just two albums - 1984's Climate of Hunter and 1995's Tilt - each more cryptic and stripped down than the last. Now comes The Drift
The title itself is an apt description for a career, stretching into its fourth decade, that's seen Walker make the slow but self-determined move from pop cult to cult artist. It's also an apt metaphor for the schism appearing in the culture in which this record now appears; split between two poles, one shifting inexorably towards a banal future crocheted from threads of the past, the other drawn to reflect on the white light, white heat marked by a total awareness of the present. The Drift fits firmly into the latter: a modernist
assault on the senses that bristles with the shock of the new, defined only by the evident rigour and discipline that went into its making.
It's unashamedly elaborate and grandiose. Not, you feel, in the service of some shallow and empty posturing but in order to demand that it is taken seriously. From open to close, The Drift feels more like a play than musical entertainment, the gaps between tracks taking on the air of a dramatic pause. Lights down. Lights up. New scene. But it makes few, if any concessions to its audience, with lyrics that sound like symbolist poetry, wrapped up in their own arcane sense of drama. Song structures defy convention. It might require an edition of Cliffs Notes to decipher but that does nothing to detract from its naked power.
Take 'Jesse', which, with the benefit of following Walker's commentary in a recent interview, seems to be fashioned as a meditation on hubris, death and the American dream, conjoining the still-born fate of Elvis Presley's twin brother with the felling of the Twin Towers. Presley apparently used to talk to his twin in times of distress. Walker addresses an edifice of corpses, 'noseholes caked in black cocaine'.
The lyrics for 'Cossacks Are', which opens the record at a furious gallop, collages pull-quotes, soundbites and eulogies - for, by and about despots and the lies that sustain them - and whips them up into a critical review that defies simple conclusions.
The closest it ever gets to the comfortingly archaic sound of his Sixties albums is the gentle acoustic closer, 'A Lover Loves'. But even then he disrupts the flow by whispering 'pssst' in between each couplet, and the guitar intentionally hits bum chords. And while sombre and sober throughout, one can't help but think that Walker possesses a finely-tuned sense of the absurd, especially when he breaks into a bizarre Donald Duck impression and croaks 'what's up, doc?' towards the end of 'The Escape'.
Despite its complexity, every twist and turn of The Drift is absolutely compelling. Taken as a whole, the fragments, details and sensations within it seem to add up to an overarching sense of despair. You can even hear it in Walker's voice, no longer the self-possessed baritone of old but here sounding frayed and tormented. It's as if he's wracked by a vision of true horror; a fascism wrought by humanity on itself, not through a sudden attack of mania but as a subtle, almost imperceptible shift in the norm through shades of cruelty and discomfort. You get the drift.
Artigo escrito porticksQuarta, 8 de Maio de 2013 às 1:22 (0 comentários )