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Scott Walker - Bish Bosch

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Artist: Scott Walker

Album: Bish Bosch

Label: 4AD

Review date: Nov. 30, 2012

Scott Walker has a new record. He’s calling it Bish Bosch, and if you live in the U.K., you can get it on Monday. (Sorry, young Americans, y’all have to wait ‘til Tuesday.) No matter which side of the road you drive on, though, everyone everywhere needs to hear Scott Walker’s new record.

Like every one of his records since 1984’s Climate of Hunter, Bish Bosch, too, is album-of-the-year material. With 4AD releasing this one so close to 2013, I cannot imagine, much less condone, any enumerated Pazz or Jop where Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch doesn’t place. Yes, indeed, Scott Walker has a new record. And apropos of Hieronymus Bosch, Bish Bosch really is his beautiful, dark and twisted fantasy made manifest.

Where should I start? Opening cut “See You Don’t Bump His Head” is grand enough, its pummeling kick drum dyad about as funny as a screen door on a battleship. Dunka-dunka-dunka-dunka-dunka-dunka... Actually, there is no levity, no relenting here. “While plucking feathers from a swan song,” Walker bellows each antecedent, following up with a different string of words each one more dastardly, more macabre than the last. The seemingly juvenile “sphincter tooting” Walker mentions — and then sonifies — on “Corps De Blah” foregrounds a similarly fucked up spoonerism: The Tyrolean village of Sterzing he wretches on about for 10 more minutes was, in fact, a notorious “bolthole” for Nazi war criminals. “Pain is not allowed,” decrees Walker in a rare moment of falsetto on “Phrasing.” Vocally, it’s a line not too far gone from the Johnny Franz production of those early Walker Brothers tunes. But perched atop the shard heap splayed by Walker’s long-suffering band (guitarists Hugh Burns and James Stevenson, drummer Ian Thomas, aux percussionist Alasdair Malloy and John Giblin on bass), no, Scott 5 this one’s surely not.

I could spend the rest of 2012 listening to Bish Bosch’s central panel, "SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)," and I’d still be woefully under-read to understand it. Hell, it’s taken me this long just to parse the title. The former is the chilliest sub-stellar body so far discovered in our universe; the latter was a Moorish jester in the court of Attila the Hun. So, as Walker scholar Rob Young so dutifully points out, essentially, it’s a song about “two brown dwarves.”

These types of heady, menacingly surreal conflations were what ultimately sold me on Walker’s last full-length, 2006’s glacially perfect, The Drift. (Cf. Mussolini and mistress; 9/11, Elvis and Jesse Presley; etc.) This time around, however, Walker’s approach, at least compositionally, is more bas-relief — the relative depth of the dwarf story, at times quite shallow, gets completely distorted by the arrangement’s purposeful, pregnant pauses. Sideways, it would make no sense at all.

By Logan K. Young

Other Reviews of Scott Walker

The Drift

’Til the Band Comes In

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View all articles by Logan K. Young

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