BEST OF 2012: 30. Scott Walker – Bish Bosch

I liked parts of ‘The Drift’ but never really felt like I connected with it. It was a curio, a dark place to retreat to from time to time, but not something I found myself reaching for especially frequently. Lovely packaging, mind you. I’d come to Scott via The Divine Comedy, much as Neil Hannon did. Hannon claims to have never heard Walker’s music prior to releasing his own Jackie-ish jangles, only alighting upon his genius when comparisons were made. I still remember picking up the four albums in the cunningly titled ‘Scott’ series from MVC. 3 and 4 are particularly cherished in this household and with such pedestal filling behaviour comes the principle that all future records will be explored and given time to breathe, mature and enchant.

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And so, while the unsettling soundscapes of 2006’s ‘The Drift’ made for a fascinating and unique, if not hugely listenable, record, when the opportunity presented itself for me to review ‘Bish Bosch‘ I was particularly keen. While the percussive experiments and wilful disregard for conventional song structures continue, this new album is a far more inviting listen. The thumping, industrial, monotonous beat which bursts out of opener ‘‘See You Don’t Bump His Head’‘ slowly retreats to the background, as unsettling synth stabs stream across the speakers and occasional electric guitar bursts drift in and out. ‘SDSS1416+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)‘ manages to make its ludicrous title seem demure with its near 22 minute running time, roaming all over the place – one minute Walker sings a capella and the next percussion comes crashing in and it explodes into life, only to implode just as quickly. It’s a lyrical tour de force, much like the whole album which, it must be said, is truly hilarious.

Walker’s sense of mischief is genuinely hard to resist on ‘Bish Bosch‘, whether it’s the childish fart noises of ‘Corps De Blah’ or the genuinely tea-sprayed-everywhere lyric “I severed my reeking gonads, fed them to your shrunken face.” It’s also quite hard to stifle a grin when first confronted with the last title on the tracklisting: ‘The Day The “Conducator” Died (An Xmas Song)‘. There are sleigh bells, in what must be the closest musical equivalent to a wryly arched eyebrow ever achieved on record. It’s a surprisingly straight-laced end to the album, but then maybe we’ve now grown used to late-period Walker as, although gaping ominous pauses and bellowed genitally-centred insults jockey for prominence, this record seems altogether less jarring than his recent output. I still find myself wondering if listening to a Scott Walker album is entertainment or endurance, and the first listen wasn’t a glistening triumph. But ‘Bish Bosch’, more than his last couple of outings at least, is surprisingly easy to love.

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