on 17 January 2008
I'm so tired. Last night, I listened to The Drift for the first time, and as a result, I didn't get a wink of sleep all night. Nothing - NOTHING - can prepare you for the sheer terror that this album invokes. I usually try to listen to new albums in one go. I managed most of The Drift, and thought I was doing well, considering some of the waking nightmares I encountered along the way. But I failed. The penultimate track pushed me beyond the limits of fear. This is my story:
I love Scott Walker's older stuff, and to honest, I bought this album without reading any reviews beforehand, expecting something similar to his old work. Thankfully, before I ever actually listened to it, I read the reviews on Amazon, and I watched the 30 Century Man documentary, that showed all the pork-punching weirdness that went on in the recording of this album (it's true - the percussion on Clara is the sound of a man laying a side of pork on a studio table and punching it. I'm not making it up).
I can't even begin to imagine how I'd have reacted to The Drift if I hadn't been warned of it's sheer extemity. I'd probably have had a heart attack somewhere down the line. I unreservedly apologise to the other reviewers on this page, since I read their proclamations of The Drift's sheer horror and mocked - "how can music be so scary, they must be mad!". Oh, how wrong I was. After The Drift, I had to line up CD after CD of happy music to bring myself back from the brink of despair.
At this point in a review, it would be normal to compare The Drift to other albums, but there is seriously nothing like this in the whole world, and I hope there never will be again. One hour and nine minutes of utter terror, the kind of thing you could only ever have heard in your very worst nightmares.
I thought I was doing OK. Cossacks Are is a strangely wonderful song. Jesse is just unpleasant, nothing more; Clara and Cue are shocking, horrible, and sickening, yet strangely beautiful, as is Jolson And Jones (donkey noise not withstanding). Then it goes relatively calm for a couple of tracks - emphasis on relatively, as by normal standards, they're still pretty harrowing.
Then there's The Escape.
Or more specifically, there's THAT moment, four minutes and ten seconds into The Escape.
The moment when I was so scared that I threw my headphones across the room and sat there, heart racing, short of breath. The moment when you realise why the album has, other than a pretty unsettling sequencer driven bit just before, spent the last few minutes lulling you into a false sense of security. Now I know what other reviewers meant when they talk about "The Donald Duck Bit". I know how stupid this must seem to anyone who hasn't heard it, but it's true - it's just vile! I will never forget that moment for the rest of my life. It's genuinely traumatising stuff. I really can feel my heart rate increasing just thinking about it.
The problem is I'm just fanning the flames. The reason I finally listened to The Drift after it sat on my desk for weeks on end, taunting me every day, daring me to play it, was that I'd read the reviews both here and elsewhere, and finally curiosity got the better of me. How can this CD evoke such extreme reactions? Surely these people are exaggerating? They're not! I can imagine future generations setting up support groups for people who have listened to this album. As I type this, I am looking at the black CD packaging, and I feel like I am looking into the very heart of evil. It sits on my desk like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like the music, the casing is the blackest black I've ever seen. I want it to go away, but I don't want to touch it in case I get sucked into the abyss. I took on The Drift, and The Drift won.
Maybe you, my dear reader, will read this and do the same thing I did. If you do, please don't do what I did, and listen to it alone, late at night, through headphones. I'm not normally affected by horror films or anything like that, but The Drift reduced me to a gibbering wreck.
Seriously, I don't care who you are, I can tell you one thing right now:
You are not ready for The Drift.