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Delirious With Weird

Monday, June 16, 2003  
A brief impression of...
Scott Walker
Mercury / Fontana

Never been scared. Never been made to feel sick. Not by a record. Remember the title from years past, I was 16. Was it mentioned in some long-forgotten end-of-year poll? A cursory entry at number 36 in NME or Vox or Select? I don't know. I don't know. It's one of those titles that's intrigued me for some time. One of those records that keeps getting mentioned by people I respect. Here... there... elsewhere. After a time I have to give up and buy it ("i", Spirit Of Eden, Remain In Light). I've either been 'not disappointed' or else 'blown away'. Count this in there too. I've had Scott 4 kicking around for years, never been that taken with it. Love the old Bacharach stuff, obviously. From him and his 'brothers'. It was Bacharach, wasn't it? 'Make It Easy On Yourself'?

This isn't. This is, aptly really, the fucking evil flipside nightmare of Spirit Of Eden. This is... Those words that start 'Farmer In The City', some Satanic auctioneer, they're obscene, grotesque, mannered beyond all manner, a huge baritone forced out of a constricted, contracted throat, "do I hear... 21... 21... 21...?... / I'll give you... 21... 21...21..." and what is 21, why is he asking for it? Who is offering it? And the underfloor to this is strings, strings deep like graves and ominous like a policeman at your door hat-in-hand, an occasional note or two of guitar less like a musical instrument than a touch upon your shoulder by a dead man. What is this? "I've never felt the pressure / I knew nothing of the horses..." What horses? What is there to know of them? If Scott 4 was baroque and dramatic, tinged with myth and sadness and a peculiar Englishness (an Englishness that could only be assumed by someone who is not English, indeed) then what is this?

You have to understand it was early, very early, on Sunday morning, 1.30am or thereabouts. I'd ordered Tilt on Thursday at 4pm from HMV and they'd emailed me confirming dispatch at 7.30pm. Prompt service. Saturday I left home at 7.15am to drive to Wales to play a louche Nazi in a war film. I'd been outside all day in a uniform in sweltering heat, speaking German, exploring abandoned buildings, my senses bleached by the sun and my brain broiled. I drove 2 and a half hours home, arrived at 9.30pm. Drank some beer, checked my emails. Took Tilt and a walkman to bed with me. Lay back and closed my eyes. The ominous hum of horsehair on steel. I already said 'Farmer In The City' was a test to get through, but at least it was somehow beautiful in its bleakness. Fuck knows what this man, this man famous and despairing of fame since he was a boy, this man now 50 (when he made this record), fuck knows what inspired him to produce it. What burnt in his stomach and behind his eyes as he sang these lines. But 'The Cockfighter'... I felt like someone had clamboured inside my skull and was scratching away at my brain, these tiny crawling and picking and etching sounds so close, actually emanating from my own head, two-minutes of nausea-inducing quietude that marked my inner ears and upset the balance of my consciousness. Scott whispers "clickety-click... clickety...click" and then ERUPTION... That gap after the second "clickety" lures you in, already disoriented and nausueous, waiting on edge for the second "click" and as soon as it arrives the song rapes your senses brutally, erupts in noise of an industrial intensity, all the more terrifying and effective because it is coming from a man who we all thought we knew so well, a beautiful man of art, and here he presents blasphemy and contagion and death so graphically and violently... We didn't expect this. I didn't. I was on the verge of sleep, when you are just able to realise your shifting parameters and shutting-down senses, and I shot upright in bed, terrified and nearly retching, consumed in this cavernous hell of noise and collapse...

I remember little about the rest of the record except that it did not ever find any light or solace, that it did not compromise. If Spirit Of Eden is a difficult ascent into heaven then this, Tilt, is a ferocious descent into hell. I look forward to furthering my acquaintence with it.

6/16/2003 10:59:00 am


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Nick Southall is Contributing Editor at Stylus Magazine and occasionally writes for various other places on and offline. You can contact him by emailing auspiciousfishNO@SPAMgmail.com

All material © Nick Southall, 2003/2004/2005