A music critic once said that Scott Walker is the Halley’s Comet of modern music as an appearance is rarely seen, however, unlike the comet Walker’s appearances are not regular nor habitual sonically.
With a gap of eleven years between Climate of Hunter and Tilt, and another eleven until The Drift, the newest, Bish Bosch, comes fast after only six perhaps the title’s pun, on the phrase to get a job done, is a nod to this acceleration. In his rare appearances Walker is known today for producing challenging albums rather than the more conventional pop songs of the 60s and 70s.
See You Don’t Bump His Head launches the album with fast heavy drums, dense guitars and paired with incongruous vocals. A strong intensity attacks from the beginning, reminiscent of both previous albums. Eerie strings create unrelenting dissonance which puts the listener directly on edge. Just as intense is the unaccompanied solo vocal introduction on Corps de Blah which highlight the style and precision in Walker’s voice alone has an overwhelming quality. Both songs exemplify the extreme changes and unpredictability of the albums songwriting.
…the most unusual but in reality is the albums most familiar…
A feature that is often as unexpected as the jarred musical landscape is the humour that exists in many songs such as “I’ve severed my reeking gonads, fed them to your shrunken face from the albums twenty minute centrepiece ‘SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter). The song has regular silences that make the abrupt bands seem louder and more powerful. “Lets just shift you over here, sorry” from Epizootics!, followed by a glimpse of a conventionality of a strummed guitar under heavenly flowers lyrics. Almost as if Walker is teasing the listener of a pleasing resolve but resorts back to the unrelenting noise of heavy drums and harsh instrumentation on the following track Dimple.
The last melody on Bish Bosch is the appears the most unusual but in reality is the albums most familiar but in the context of Walker’s arrangement makes it very uncanny. From the song The Day The ‘Conducator’ Died (Xmas Song) which thematically references the premature execution of the Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu on Christmas Day 1989.
…each song can “contain references to molecular biology and sulphurous farts”…
The albums title name checks the Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch, inviting the listened to draw parallels between both artists. And as a Bosch painting, the more one consumes the greater the rewards as the detail appears obsessive. Walker’s website alludes to this in Rob Young’s essay which describes how each song can “contain references to molecular biology and sulphurous farts; quotes from the bible and Hollywood film directors; medieval leather shoes and Algonquin chiefs”. Walker is offering a Joycean puzzle ready to be unravelled.
One should not expect a 1960s or 70s crooning Walker but rather a third in a series starting from Tilt. However a constant throughout his work are the emotional resonances and power n the man’s voice. Walker again escorts us to a dark, intense and unconventional district that does not follow conventional song structures or textures of familiarity. Each song turns unanticipated corners of strange syncopated drumming or synthesized horns or undecipherable instruments propelled to their limits. With every listen the experience will build and grow depending on ones patience for this to occur. A must for anyone with an ear for atypical and a curious appetite.