Written by: Adam Steel, Special to CC2K
The talented musician abandons subtlety for bombast in his latest release.
Dulcimer. Harpsichord. Ukulele.
There are few instruments Patrick Wolf can’t play.
On The Bachelor, his first of two releases slated for this year (The Conqueror is slated for late 2009 /early 2010), Wolf abandons his subtle genius in songwriting and musical composition and opts for a more bombastic, in-your-face sonic assault that feels all too static for the messages behind most of the thirteen tracks.
Of course, Wolf has continued his traditional use of strings, namely the violin which tends to make tracks like “Hard Times” to “Blackdown” to “The Sun is Often Out” all the more dense and depressing than their titles suggest.
Alternatively, in a move that seemed brilliant on paper, Wolf enlists the vocals of Tilda Swinton, Oscar-winning art-house-cinema-queen and muse for Dutch fashion house Viktor & Rolf, who proves surprisingly unnecessary as “The Voice of Hope” on tracks “Theseus”, “Thickets” and “Oblivion” (mind you, if Tilda Swinton volunteered to help me darn a pair of socks, I would die happy). This marks the second time that Wolf has used a rich, vocal counterpart to serve as the fairy godmother to his lost little boy persona (bluesy-mod icon Marianne Faithfull provided similarly pointless “words of hope” on 2007’s The Magic Position). Another guest contributor on “Battle” seemed equally superfluous—proving that sharing the spotlight does no justice to Wolf’s strong vocals. Far too many times, I found myself saying: “Patrick should remain stripped down and solo on his records” (no pun intended).
I am speaking of course about the artist’s recent foray into glam rock territory and his desired compulsion to don tin-foil creations that leave nothing to the imagination and, more often than not, show off far too much skin for anybody to take seriously.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING VIDEO IS PRETTY RAUNCHY.
Do yourself a favour and visit his S&M-themed video for “Vulture”, which oddly enough, is the single best song on the album—because it fits absolutely nowhere and is so perfect a match to the new persona that Wolf is trying to become: (“My D-D-D-D-D-D-Dead Meat / You’re D-D-D-D-D-D-Dead Meat” Come on. That is pure pop gold). He’s no longer a frizzy-haired, pan-flute-toting hippie sprite. That was so 2004. This year is all about glam. Fashion. Make-up. And electronica—all of which has proved lost in translation to this once die-hard Patrick Wolf fan. This is supposedly why the excessive violin use over bass-beats that would make Goldfrapp jealous really didn’t work for me. I suppose I come from the old school where accordions and drum machines should be kept at either ends of the spectrum.
Don’t get me wrong—Patrick Wolf is still extremely talented, and The Bachelor is for all intents and purposes a good album, but I feel though that his newly discovered place in mainstream UK pop is severely limiting the once sublime beauty that was palpable and all-too-evident in his earlier LPs. Hopefully, with the money he earns from this record, he will take some time and retreat into the woods to come up with something that better highlights his immense musical talents; preferably one that won’t alienate old fans and / or scare new ones.