This is an album made by a man in his 60s who has been one of the more enigmatic men in the music business for the past few decades, but knowing the history of Scott Walker and his scattered musical incarnations would not do any good when approaching his latest album The Drift.
Walker offers listeners a disenchanting and horrifying collection of ideas and phrases that can only attempt to coalesce under a jarring shroud of anti-melody. The lyrical content of most songs here are along the lines of gothic poetry, though lines involving anything being ‘dipped in blood in the moonlight’ and Zodiac signs are more reminiscent of death metal than timeless prose of years past. A look through the liner notes reveals the back stories of a couple songs in Walker’s own words, but there seems to be a vehement disconnect between the concepts, the intents, and the executions that nearly derails the true “song” nature of many of these tracks.
The delivery of these lines, however, does manage to reinforce the ominous vibe Walker consistently reinforces. Words rise up like smoke from his throat and get caught in the air during his finest moments though at times, his hauntingly disjointed vocals escalate from apocalyptic or ominous to downright aggravating. ‘Jesse, are you listening?’ Vapid repetition of this question could make you wonder if this song is thinking outside of itself and realizing, with intense self-awareness, that the “spooky” vocals and jarring, yet sparse, instrumentation have already forced the listener to find a less frustrating distraction. Hearing ‘I’ll punch a donkey in the streets of Galway!’ later in the song with what sounds like a donkey being punched (hopefully no euphemism intended) would make it abundantly clear that those still listening are going to keep having to involve themselves fully in the work to gain its fruits.
Musically, The Drift consistently forges an impenetrable façade of distant drum hits and walls of reverberating guitar dirges. When the bottom drops out of the most melodic sections, the true fragility of Walker’s inner self tries to peek out, but it is not often out for very long before it is drowned again in cacophony both quiet and loud. Audacious and difficult? Of course. Freethinking artistic expression? Without a doubt. But make no mistake: this is not a pop album by any stretch of the imagination and the listener is consistently reminded of this fact until the very last hurrah.
Sure, the stories of Elvis singing to his stillborn twin-brother (“Jesse”) and the trials of Mussolini’s executed lover (“Clara”) are captivating ideas in theory, but the oceans of tedium must be navigated to truly appreciate the symbolic content. Scott Walker has unabashedly aimed toward the highest of highs in crafting this piece of “art-rock” or “avant-garde” music but all that The Drift manages is to be nothing more than a bloated audio book with a soundtrack crafted specifically to challenge rather than involve, a happy ending nowhere to be found.
Release date: June 6, 2006
Rating: 2.0 / 10
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