on 30 May 2013
Had to wait a good while and give it a good few listens before reviewing this. I have to say it's one of the most bewitching albums I have ever heard. It sort of terrifies me (not quite as much as his previous album The Drift, but not far off) and whenever I think about listening to it I often change my mind and put something else on. When I do decide to take the plunge however I find myself utterly captivated and, as is the case as I type, I absolutely cannot turn it off until it's finished.
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.
on 22 December 2012
I don't understand people's reaction to Scott's later work. would people really prefer it if now he was crooning his old 60's hits on a stool in an argyle jumper? It's just not what makes him great - he's always pushed himself and his audience.
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.
While not light listening theirs a lot to like here if you're at all open minded about your music - ignore the snotty reviews claiming Walker's lost his marbles, quite the opposite - his early work and later work seem to me one piece - Scott's songs have always had a heart of darkness - I really enjoyed Bish Bosch - one minor criticism is that it's not as shockingly new as Drift was, but as usual Walker only ever competes with himself - a true original and a dark minded maverick to cherish. LONG LIVE SCOTT!!!
on 27 March 2016
This album is easy to dismiss as pretentious codswallop. Sooooo easy, in fact, that after a two years of listening to four sides of slightly abstract, deliberately shocking and confusing lyrics paired with unmusical 'music', I have to throw my hands in the air and confess to having 'been had'! This is not an album that I enjoy listening to - it means nothing to me, because it is probably not meant to be understood ... or enjoyed (I believe).
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.
on 16 January 2013
First, let's deal with what this record is not.
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.
I don't think I will ever forget the moment the rhythmic joke is on the listener during "Phrasing", or the jester being heckled by silence and firing back a selection of stand up comics' stock comebacks in response at the start of "Zercon", or the sudden appearance of the most mournful Christmas carol performance I have ever heard. These moments are the results of a synthesis of music, arrangement, lyric, timing and tone - to force a craftsman of Walker's calibre into writing a catchy melody when he want you to FEEL the appropriate thing rather than simply listen to him singing about it, would be an injustice.
I also wanted to address the accusations that his voice sounds bad on this record - it just plain doesn't. At 69 his voice has come on in leaps and bounds in this register, and certainly during Dimple or Corps De Blah he hits some classic notes with real feeling and tone - it seems that his insistence on stretching for the note has actually had the effect of increasing his range, rather than causing him damage.
So to whether I think people should buy the album - selfishly I have to say that it is important to me that he continues working and some level of financial success would be great for him and hopefully mean the wait for another record is half a decade again rather than the full ten years. So yes, on that level you should buy it.
Of course, from a less selfish point of view I would have to qualify this - if you hate Tilt and The Drift, there is absolutely no point in buying this. If you love Walker's latest stuff then you have probably already got it in some form or another. The undecideds (and I doubt there are many) on his recent material may find this a lot less bleak than The Drift and as a result may buy into it a bit more.
In short, don't judge this album for what it isn't. If you love it or hate it, let that be because of the content and not because Scott Walker isn't writing soul crushing ballads any more. As for me? I absolutely love it - it is probably my favourite of the modern trilogy.
P.S. I can heartily recommend getting the print copy of the album. The lyrics book is the only reason I really "got" ...conducator's multiple choice nature.
From the opening salvo of thundering, metronomic industrial rhythmic
mayhem of first track "See You Don't Bump His Head" one knows straight
away that we are not going to be in for an easy ride but then Scott
Walker hasn't been in the business of wooing the mainstream for many
years now. Continuing with the maverick sonic adventures last encountered
on his album 'The Drift' (2006) Mr Walker digs deeper still into the darkness
and comes back with something quite extraordinary. That 'Bish Bosch' owes
far more to the Second Viennese School of Schoenberg, Webern and Berg than
The Beach Boys is no surprise but this new collection is in many ways more
approachable than his last outing. To my ears there seems to be a greater
structural unity in these nine compositions than one might have expected.
The voice, given that he is fast nearing his seventh decade in the listening
world, is in remarkable shape. His rich, strong baritone has rarely sounded
better. The quasi-operatic timbre of his pipes suits this expressionistic
music well. The range of dynamic articulation and tonal colour with which he
imbues each energetic performances is quite stunning. The Bosch of the album's
title leans far closer to that visionary painter's depiction of 'Hell' than his 'Garden
Of Earthly Delights'!; sounds from the pit rather than any anodyne approximation
of celestial bliss. This said there are brief glimpses of something more transcendent
and redemptory. There are moments in 'Corps De Blah', for example, where
the storm clouds burst open revealing, in a coruscating blaze of gloriously
shimmering glissandi and wailing guitar, something far closer to a sense of hope.
The monumental 'SDSS14+138 (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)', is perhaps Mr Walker's
magnum opus however. No respite here from the stark intensity of his unsettling
sepulchral alchemy. One almost senses his soul rent in two in a vocal performance
of shattering power and uncompromising focus. A strangely beautiful madness.
So too the haunting final track 'The Day The "Conducator" Died (An Xmas Song)',
challenging the memory of Romanian dictator Nicholae Ceausescu's diabolical spirit.
'Bish Bosch' is certainly no walk in the park but for the sheer audacity and
breadth of Mr Walker's dark vision we may well hear no finer album this year.
on 5 December 2012
I have been caught napping by Scott as I expected another few years to get my head around Drift before another creation appeared. I believe this is more accessible than Drift and there only seems to be one real screaming/screeching moment. Having said that I have probably only heard Drift about three times but feel i could listen to this much more. Why bother if it takes that much effort? Well, the first time I heard Tilt I turned it off, the second, i hoovered (and I rarely hoover) but Farmer in the City would now be in my top ten Scott Walker songs.
Like a previous reviewer I laughed out loud a few times but i also had to skip ahead at the end of the very long track four, somewhere around fourteen minutes where it just became a wee bit too manic.
However like Elizabeth I still prefer Scott 1 to 4 and his compositions on 'til the band comes in'. The storytelling on these earlier albums was stunning whereas on this, and Tilt and Drift, I frequently have no idea what is going on, even with lyrics provided! I will listen to this a few more times and maybe I will find something wonderful like farmer but now his music is certainly something that needs time, after which you may still struggle, as I do with Drift, or end up loving it.
I fail to see why people give his latest offerings just one star purely because they prefer the 'old' Scott. This music is different and because you do not like it does not mean it is one star; I don't like opera but would never give just one star to Bizet. I say again, really listen to Tilt and in there you will find something wonderful. I have given 5 stars as I could never give less to someone I have listened to all of my adult life.
on 4 February 2013
Whilst The Drift was for me easily the best album of 2005-2006 I don't know what to make of this! Scott Walker is to me an amazing artist in terms of the soundscapes he conjures up-and here again he manages to perform amazing aural feats with remarkably good sound quality in the recording-I don't think this is ever boring for sure! In terms of lyrics I can't work out quite what his intention is-is the joke on the listener? (probably yes-in part), does he want to win a prize for most pretentious lyricist ever?-(could be easily in for the running for that), is it all meant to be a sort of puzzle for the listener to sort out (although here this time I really think you could listen for years and never know what the songs are meant to be about) or is it free-word association and randomly generated?-you know maybe all these explanations are true! I suppose in the world of art there have been many precedents for this sort of thing-William Burroughs cut-up books, in visual art the Dadaists etc-all playing with the absurd. Certain things carry over from the past albums in the lyrics too-the use of caustic put-downs-very well honed this time, an air of total and utter misanthropy, plenty of humour of a very black-sort-but a type of humour I'm very partial too and it IS genuinely funny, and steps out of the avant-garde and into the everyday ("jingle bells" quoted on the last track and a reference to "From here to eternity" on the first track-the equivalent of the Donald Duck voice on the track "The Escape" from The Drift)-citing popular quotations within works of music with a more serious intention being a feature of musicians going all the way back to Mahler and beyond. Walker said this was the last of a trilogy and maybe together with Tilt and The Drift it is-The Drift therefore being the Adagio or Sarabande in the tryptich. Maybe you have got to give this a lot of listens-there isn't anything as stand-out beautiful to my ear here as "Clara" or "Cue" from the drift-i.e. the beautiful way that Walker can go from out-and-out horror-pyschotic music to sweet sound beauty turning the work almost on a sixpence with remarkable adroitness in terms of the use of orchestration-but maybe it just all takes time! Anyway this is music for the iPod and private listening-I can't see it going down well on the X-Factor-though I'd pay to see that! Interesting music for fans of curate's eggs and something a bit different. What ever next for Walker?-like all of us he may have a tendancy towards several sins but in his case being boring certainly isn't one of them!
on 3 December 2012
Look, I think it's my fault that I cannot love this record, that I cannot love Scott Walker's strangulated slightly operatic vocals which provide little relief from the challenging sturm und drang of the musical accompaniment that makes up these songs (and I use the word songs in the loosest possible sense). Maybe it's because Bish Bosch isn't of a type that can be readily assimilated by an ear used to Rock n Roll, R n B, Reggae or even Krautrock: maybe I have been spoiled rotten by too many seductive rhythms, tunes and melodies. After listening to the shattering sourness of Bish Bosch I craved the aural digestibility of all kinds of other music, especially Scott Walker's solo albums 1 to 4. Bish Bosch is monstrous and horrible, and yet, as stated, I feel the failure to connect is mine. Well done Scott Walker for producing something as brave and challenging as Bish Bosch. Admirable? Yes. Loveable and listenable? Not in a million years.
on 3 December 2012
The first thing to say is that this probably the funniest album ever made - the funniest musical album anyway. I was in stitches throughout. Maybe some people won't get the jokes, but that's their loss. Is this album difficult? Somewhat. But perhaps less so than The Drift. It's also the most original album in existence, though less original due to the prior existence of Tilt and The Drift; it has more similarity with the latter than the former. There are some obvious parallels in the sequence of pieces, and in terms of the approach to sound. Occasionally it's a touch too much like The Drift (the opening of Dimple is a bit too similar to the opening of Jesse). Dimple is one that had me in stitches in particular, as I couldn't help but imagine Scott possessed by a Teletubby (in much the same way he was possessed by Daffy Duck on the last album; or was it Donald Duck?) It's possible to mourn the absence by and large of Scott's former lyricism, although it's not entirely absent if you look for it. But the twenty minute Zercon is strangely affecting, is possibly his finest masterpiece, and is a beautiful portrait of stoic individualism in the face of mob rule. The journey from scorned repulsive dwarf, to flagpole sitter, to dwarf star is literally sublime. There's so much here, it's impossible to go into; it's like an encyclopedia. We all find flatulence amusing don't we? So does Scott. We find observations like 'grinding upheaval/always affects the genitals' both amusing and illuminating don't we? Mischievous hijinx is everywhere. Scott dispatches his punchlines like a stand-up in hell. Blowing up bullfrogs with a straw is bound to be the latest craze among the disenchanted youth of today. There's acres of this entertainment on show. 73 minutes of it. All for a tenner. Can't go wrong can you? And he even signs off on a festive note, which is appropriate, and considerate.
on 4 December 2012
Unfortunately, a "collegue" of mine inflicted 10 minutes of this "album" on me during work hours. I am still confused. It's still playing. Dear god, it's still playing. It makes me emotional. And tired. And horny.