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Bish Bosch has been three years in the making for singer-songwriter Scott Walker, formerly of The Walker Brothers. The music he has been making at his own pace since the early eighties might be utterly estranged from the songs that made him a household name, but they stem from the privacy he requires to write this complex and hugely inventive music.
Scott Walker’s been at it for over 50 years, producing his more challenging work for the best part of half of that. He scored his first chart-topper in 1965, when The Walker Brothers’ Make It Easy on Yourself held off competition from Sonny & Cher, Ken Dodd and The Rolling Stones. But these days, Walker is more likely to be playing darts and studying dictators than discussing a revivalist 60s package tour.
Impressionistic in both sound and ‘lyric’, Bish Bosch, Walker’s 14th studio album, offers collage and an abstract form of rhythm – his own rhythm. It’s propulsive, carrying an urge, the need to examine the debris of mostly violent actions.
It starts with pummelling drums, fiery guitar licks and “plucking feathers from a swansong” in ‘See You Don’t Bump His Head’. Then, the almost suite-like Corps De Blah begins with electronic textures before a sampled dog bark and murky rock kicks in. Soon, the sounds of musique concrete, seagulls, screechy strings and gothy stomps come in and out to accessorise the next batch of prose.
Before long Bish Bosch resembles the sort of thing old Radiohead fans think Radiohead sound like today. Tar features knife sharpening as percussion, and the catchy SDSS1416+13B throws free jazz, thrash metal, sirens and what might be a staple gun into the mix. The album closes with a xylophone plinking its way through Jingle Bells – in reference to the execution of Romanian politician Nicolae Ceaușescu in December 1989. Obviously.
Maybe Walker’s having a riot. Lines such as “Here’s to a lousy life”, “I want to forget you just the way you are”, and “I really hope your face clears up” suggests he’s more fun than he makes out. And what keeps you going is that voice; the voice that pulled you in all those years ago.
That this is, says the man himself, the third of a trilogy (after 1995’s Tilt and 2006’s The Drift) perhaps means that Walker’s next album will feature less of the meat-punching, and some more accessible material. Right now, though, Bish Bosch needs to be played loud; and it’s more of an installation piece than a shuffle-friendly commute record. It might not encourage repeat plays, but to dismiss it as a racket is to do it, and its maker, a huge disservice.
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Top Customer Reviews
Anyways onto the album - just like the Drift this took ages to latch onto. They're at first listen is no common theme or impetus to the songs, but they reveal themselves with repeated listens, and when they click it's a revelation. "Zercon" becomes quite touching and is the stand out track - the monologue of a downtrodden person and his hatred for his employers/taunters and his low place in society - he eventually transforms into a star - but the irony is that this life defined by hatred has rendered him the coldest object in the solar system! Not usual song matter but Walker's modern work will be better enjoyed if you look at the songs figuratively and not literally and find meaning for yourself. I like to imagine I'm listening to an audio avant garde opera - an image Walker would perhaps appreciate himself.
The album is beautifully recorded and produced and genuinely amusing in parts - the humour is quite broad at times.
A concept album about decay - (decaying empires/decaying bodies/bodily function/ageing) - are the main theme of the album and quite fitting for an artist of Walkers years to contemplate their own mortality. If Tilt was a haunted wood and Drift an abattoir Bish Bosch is a twisted macabre carnival - the ominous last party before it all falls apart.Read more ›
Scott Walker (these days) is an artist, rather than a 'singer'. I appreciate the beauty of much of what he has recorded in his lifetime, but with this album I feel that only Scott himself can fully understand it and (as 'his audience') I rather resent being 'locked out' of whatever it is that he is trying to communicate. In all probability, I am simply too common and/or stupid.
Some reviewers think that this album heralds 'inevitable the future direction of music' - I'm fairly sure that I read the same thing about the music of 'Soul II Soul' in the late 1980s!? Once again, only time will tell ...
On the plus side (and earning the second star); the vinyl is of very high quality and the packaging suitably sumptuous. I look forward to selling my (largely unplayed) copy for five times what I paid for it to some unsuspecting student in decades to come :-) .
(Genuinely) sorry, Scott :-( . You've lost me completely.
Bish Bosch is dense, difficult, epic, comedic (very) and frightening. It is also quite tuneful in places. Walker's voice is never less than captivating and the lyrics he sings, shouts and screams at certain points are there to be researched and further explored if one has the inclination
This album is such an achievement that I honestly couldn't give it anything less than 5 stars. Nobody else makes music like this. Some might argue this is for very good reason but I for one am very pleased he does.
Scott Walker has not spontaneously reverted to the singer songwriter of Big Louise and its ilk, sorry.
He has been ploughing his own, lonely furrow for thirty years now with little concern for anything as approachable as The World's Strongest Man or for the many people who for some mad reason appear to express anger at his obstinate refusal to pander to fans of his 60s output.
I guess it's time to call those folks to order - only one person gets to choose what he does, and it ain't you or me.
In fact, I would always recommend trying before you buy to anyone thinking of checking out Tilt, The Drift or Bish Bosch. It's a world away from who he was, and possibly several worlds away from any comparable figure around today.
The first thing to note about his late period work is that it is designed around serving the lyric. It is common in pop music for a melody to have a lyric bolted to it, but here nothing is important but the lyrical content - style serves content, sounds serve content and melody (or lack of same) serves this, also. While the lyrics veer very close to self parodying pretentiousness at times, it is clear from several listens (for those who possess the stamina for such an endeavour) that just like on The Drift, in his rampant poetic excesses he is messing with us (Donald Duck was a major clue). Unlike The Drift, however, he times his punchlines a lot better on this record and seems less consumed with a bottomless bleakness at the same time.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I really do not know how to rate this album. In his heyday, post Walker Brothers, he was in his pomp, enchanting and thoroughly deserving of a much bigger audience. Read morePublished 8 months ago by OldCarliol.
What to make of this album? Well I’ve listened to it many times from start to finish over a long period of time. it’s got into my head, but what does one make of it? Read morePublished 10 months ago by apostrophe
Scott keeps threatening us with a dance album - I hope he does, until then you can dance to Epizootics - I know, I do! This is Scott's comedy album. Read morePublished 19 months ago by serenity
Brilliant if you love SW - mind you this is very very different. Nice one Scott - more please.Published on 14 July 2014 by KMS
Open ears and the ability to embrace that music has many forms. If you only own the Walker bros Portrait and you fancy hearing "Gods tonsils" again after 40 years , this is... Read morePublished on 23 April 2014 by krautrocker
Gave it a so/so rating, because it's the worst Scott Walker CD I've ever heard! Very disappointing, but that's how it goes with music.Published on 9 Feb. 2014 by JinFrance