Rob Young (Editor)
Rob Young, former editor of The Wire, seems well placed to collate this essay collection – and I like the essay form for an appraisal of Scott Walker’s work, rather than the conventional biography – for a start, Walker is a character. And it’s the character that fronts (albeit reluctantly) the music. So let’s hear about that, rather than any great probe into the biographical details of one Scott Engel.
Indeed these essays are, in many ways, fragments, they flicker into action, turn the page (or several as it were) and a new essay slots into place. Some of the writers here offer wonderful pieces (Ian Penman, Amanda Petrusich, David Stubbs). All of them (at the very least) try.
Chronologically this collection sweeps across the work, surveying some of the strangest music – and some of the straightest music (served bent) and/or some of the most twisted music (served up in a decidedly straight manner). There are some revelations in the writing, deeply passionate Walker fans argue for the brilliance of lesser raved-over albums. The “lost years” of the 1970s are examined in some detail (even if some of the details seem destined to forever remain sketchy) and really the only let down of the book is that the writing about the last two albums is not really exciting at all. But we have the documentary – and that’s probably a little too convenient, writers get to trace around that now to offer anything resembling substance when weighing in on post-Climate Of Hunter Walker.
I liked this book – because I like so much of the music of Scott Walker. And I feel it’s an obvious thing to say but still important: if you like Scott Walker’s music you will (should) like this book. I occasionally loved this book because I also like a lot of the writers who have contributed (I’ve named them already in this review).
And the timing seems right – Walker himself having written the next chapter with his new album.