I think I just have to face it: the Scott Walker I like is the one who completely reinvented himself later in his life, demolishing his earlier image and creating some of the weirdness, most unique singer-songwriter albums I’ve ever heard. Try as I might, I don’t like the original version of him. This is the third album of his I’ve heard from the first phase of his solo career and once again it fails to move me.
I get the appeal, at least I think I do. Walker’s songs are reasonably sophisticated for baroque pop songs and his lyrics are almost totally unique among people making music like this in the late ’60s. And certainly, had I been alive for his transformation from a Walker Brother to a singer-songwriter whose songs contain lyrics like this, I would have been impressed. (I am impressed.)
But what it boils down to, for me, is that I just don’t like his extremely ornate baroque pop. It doesn’t do anything for me on a visceral lever – like, at all – and I don’t find the arrangements interesting enough for them to stimulate me intellectually. For me this was just as true when he was covering Brel as when he’s writing all his own material. I just don’t care about them.
When words and music deliberately don’t match sometimes I can’t get behind it and sometimes I can. With Walker, I want to get behind it, but I find the arrangements blah enough that I struggle to figure out what the big deal is. I know that this is entirely because I learned about Walker through his later renaissance, when he made music about as original as any being made by a singer-songwriter at the time. And I understand that, had my lens been the Walker Brothers instead, this would seem very daring. But it just doesn’t move me.