Scott Walker had one of the most incredible second acts in popular music, utterly transforming his sound at a point at which most people could be forgiven for having forgotten about him (if they knew about him at all). His late career albums are some of the most vital, original singer-songwriter albums you’ll ever hear. Even calling this “singer-songwriter” feels unfair to Walker, as he’s left that paradigm behind.
Like so much music, I’ve come at this backwards. It was The Drift that turned me into a fan of his music and I have his subsequent albums up until his death. So, inevitably, the album that started all of this was likely to seem a little more primitive, a little less original, a little less brilliant.
And it’s certainly not quite as path-breaking, not quite as utterly unique as his 21st century records. But, of course, he had to get there somehow. And If I imagined a record that could bridge the very large gap between the slightly sinister crooner of his early solo records whatever you can describe his late career renaissance as, well I guess it would sound like this.
The record still sounds utterly unique compared to his earlier music, it’s clear he’s already well on his way to thinking about music in terms of blocks instead of verses and choruses. But there are also vestiges of the past, of the more traditional. If I had heard this album first, I’d likely not even notice them, because this still sounds like nobody else. In fact, to be fair I think I really just have to acknowledge that fact: nobody else was making music like this in 1995. Moreover, nobody would have ever expected Scott Walker to be making music like this in 1995. (I say all of this without having yet heard Climate of the Hunter. Maybe that would give me some other idea.)
Walker’s late career renaissance is that of someone trying to completely rethink the approach to writing songs. It’s fascinating and captivating, at least to me. And, though, this doesn’t quite break from tradition the way his later records do, it’s almost all the way out there. And that’s a really good thing.