Scott Walker might be claiming this as the final act in a trilogy that embraces previous albums Tilt and The Drift but, actually, as has been the case since Climate Of Hunter, he takes his time and then somehow systematically (through some strange, fraught embracing of chaos) tears down everything that stood before. You might call to mind, in places, the general vibe and feel of parts of the previous albums (Tilt and The Drift) but also not really. “Here’s to a lousy life” he intones over and over to conclude one of the nine songs here – all of which feel and sound fantastic, warped, weird, beautiful – none of which ever (quite) sound complete.
So determined is he to rewrite his role as well as the music and the idea of what music is Walker appears this time as something one step removed from the post-apocalyptic post-crooner that he has not so much embodied as hovered over for close to three decades now.
Here he is inside the songs and around the songs at the same time – the singer becoming the song while stepping back so far from it as to offer it up as not even a song, maybe that’s the intention here? These, then, are a set of non-songs. Or a set of nonsense.
But to write it off as (just) nonsense is to not understand that it’s okay to not take an actual meaning from (any of) this.
Nightmare dreamscapes that call to mind, again, the film work of David Lynch (in parts) but rely on absolute lack of structure so as to float and hover art-like rather than music-like/song-like. He’s done that before – sure. But never like this. And you know – you just know – that he never will again.
Aural expressionist-paintings doesn’t cover it either – but it could. Or you could just agree with my wife, who, at six o’clock one morning was awoken to this album and protested, “sounds like Phantom of the fucking Opera” (or should that be capitalised/hyphenated: Phantom of the Fucking-Opera?) I thought that one of the best compliments this album could receive.
You almost imagine Scott Walker smiling at that, having quite possibly warbled these warped non-story slangings and slayings out over 73 minutes with his tongue in his cheek. He might almost crack a wry smile, mightn’t he?
Album of the year perhaps. A bolder claim than that first suggests when you consider there’s no real music here. Oh but there’s so much (too much?) art instead.