From what I’ve read about him, Scott Walker used to be some sort of pop star back in the ‘60s, releasing a few hits before breaking off towards dark cabaret, orchestral pop stuff. However, I think that anyone who was a fan of his pop music will be taken aback at this recording. On Tilt, his first album in something like 10 years, Walker has moved into the territory occupied by dark crooners such as the Tindersticks and Nick Cave and come out with something even more extreme than any of them.
Walker’s voice is probably the most noticeable feature of Tilt. His voice swoops, soars, whispers, and howls in a manner very similar to that of Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine). In fact, it is the probably the epitome of the gothic male vocalist. But whereas one of those vampiric wannabes might be singing about depression and death, I don’t have the slightest idea as to what Walker is singing about most of the time. Well, I should say that I have a general idea of that the songs are about. To say his lyrics are obtuse is an understatement, though.
“Farmer in the City” is an ode to controversial Italian director Paolo Pasolini, who was slain under mysterious circumstances. But ask me what Walker refers to when he says “can’t go by a man with brain grass, go by his long long eye gas” and you’ll probably get a shrug. Sometimes, I think he just chose the words because they “sounded” good, and not because of any meaning.
Musically, Tilt is just as much a challenge. Some of the music is just beautiful, such as “Farmer in the City,” where Walker’s vocals reside on a bed of Gorecki-like string arrangements. At other times, it’s almost industrial. “The Cockfighter” starts off slowly and quietly, but the silence is ruptured by a onslaught of noise, drums, and vocals that’s so sudden it made me jump the first couple of times I heard it. For most of “Bouncer See Bouncer,” all you here is a pounding drumbeat around which floats the locust-like sounds of a hurdy-gurdy.
However, there’s always something off-kilter about the music. It’s always slightly off, like the songs might come apart or something. It’s this off-kilter quality that keeps it from becoming overbearing, whether due to Walker’s vocals or the license he takes from his lyrics. But even the music isn’t anything spectacular. Everything on this album comes together, the sum being way more than the parts.
Definitely an interesting listen, because I don’t really know of anything that sounds like this. But I wouldn’t mind hearing more from this guy.