Top positive review
53 people found this helpful
on 2 November 2003
Trying to explain what this remarkable album sounds like to someone who has never heard it before isn't easy. And I suppose that's unsurprising, as it's a record that demands more than a few casual listens before one can make sense of it. However, with patience and time, it seeps into the listener's brain as if by osmosis, and gradually reveals its condiderable beauty and charm.
More than anything, Rock Bottom is a record to be felt, and it feels like a dream. Swirling, drifting currents of sound wash out of the speakers, Wyatt's abstract lyrics coming accross like a poem that is difficult to understand in a literal sense, yet one instinctively knows exactly what is meant. It is remarkably visual music - it would be the perfect soundtrack to film of newly discovered creatures that live undisturbed on the ocean floor. Fittingly, as the sea and its inhabitants are recurring themes in the lyrics. I can think of few other albums (well, none) which namecheck brine, porpoises, baby sperm whales and starfish!
I won't dwell much on the merits of the individual tracks - the album is best appreciated as a whole in one sitting. However, my personal highlight is the exquisite Alife, Wyatt's deeply personal long song about his relationship with Alfreda Benge, who painted the beautiful album cover.
Love and hope abound on this album. Wyatt began writing the songs shortly before suffering the accident which left him confined to a wheelchair, and finished them during his long convalescence. Unsurprisingly, there is a palpable sense of uncertainty about the future in his fragile vocals, but ultimately the overwhelming feeling is one of positivity and acceptance. Maudlin self pity doesn't even appear on his emotional register.
Rock Bottom is one of the most thoughtful, beautiful and original albums of the 1970s. It is truly progressive music -groundbreaking and idiosyncratic - without any of the bombast that characterised so much of the musical output of his contemporaries. The only record I can think of comparing it to is Miles Davis' In A Silent Way, with which it shares a soothing, meditative quality. I would recommend it unreservedly to anyone wanting to have an unforgettable musical experience.