It has become increasingly hard to define the music of Scott Walker.
The legendary and enigmatic former 60’s pop star with a golden voice has made notoriously difficult music over the past 30 years, and typically releases one album per decade.
Bish Bosch is not as downright terrifying and exhausting an album as 2006’s The Drift, but it’s every bit as jarring. Where the last album might have had you spending every minute cowering in fear of what lurked around the corner, Bish Bosch is far more immediate and aggressive. In a year when so many indie bands put out laptop synth records, it’s refreshing to get a solid kick in the nether regions from a nearly 70-year-old man.
Walker’s later-day trademarks are all here: dissonant strings and nightmarish arrangements, chilling silences, wailing atonal vocals and obtuse lyrics (touching on the likes of former dictators, Hawaii, brown dwarf stars, and Attila the Hun’s court jester), and atypical instrumentation like ram’s horns and sharpened machetes for percussion.
The opening “See You Don’t Bump His Head” is set atop a pummeling distorted drum and interjects jagged guitar riffs and distorted keyboards bringing it at times close to industrial metal, and the woozy brass and rhythms of “Epizootics!” make it among the most easily digestible songs Walker’s put out in a long time.
The epic 20 minutes of “SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter)” contain practically an entire album of ideas, and Walker’s voice hauntingly stretches into new places, whether scream-metal or high pitched crooning. Otherwise, amid the chaos, and uh… farting sounds, of “Corps De Blah,” the string arrangements at time sound melodious, and the sparse, icy finish “The Day the ‘Conducator’ Died (An Xmas Song)” has sleigh bells and what could be considered an actual chorus, and slyly closes with a few notes of “Jingle Bells.”
I won’t even get started on the lyrics, but let’s just say they have to be heard and read to be believed (“No more dragging this wormy anus round shag piles from Persia to Thrace / I’ve severed my reeking gonads, fed them to your shrunken face”).
Bish Bosch is not for everybody and is hard to recommend to most people. But it’s by far the most compelling record of 2012 and demonstrates that Walker is in a completely different league from not only his 60’s peers, but his much younger contemporaries as well.