Music Reviews
The Bachelor

Patrick Wolf The Bachelor

(Bloody Chamber Music) Buy it from Insound Rating - 8/10

Patrick Wolf is definitely getting better with age. While some viewed The Magic Position as a step back after his precocious and stunningly experimental first two albums, it was undoubtedly his most approachable and commercially successful work. The Bachelor is pseudo-self-released (financed by fans as well through bandstocks.com) after a split over creative differences with Universal. Wolf had total creative freedom and brings into balance the darkness and light that divided his previous albums. We know now that he has a keen awareness of the darkness of the world along with the equanimity to transform it into gorgeous songs like The Sun is Often Out, concerning the suicide of a friend. This is one of my favorites: Wolf sings against only a string section until a choir joins him for the blossoming and probably symbolically short-lived chorus. It’s clear he’s learned that restraint is more powerful in certain instances, but this hasn’t stopped him from using such an array of instruments to have initially raised the eyebrows of execs at Universal.

Hard Times is definitely much better than the initial single of Vulture, as is the video. Hard Times offers the buoyancy of The Magic Position while informing casual listeners that this album has shifted into more ominous territory. Wolf released Vulture first (and a video wherein he’s rolling around in not nearly enough bondage leather to cover his ass) probably to declare “Hey, this is NOT going to be another Magic Position! I'm going to use a synthesizer and you're going to like it!” Many songs on this album channel Fischerspooner and Wolf’s showmanship is definitely on par with theirs as well, in a “we might look fucking scary but we are here to party” sort of way. Tilda Swinton’s spoken portions begin powerfully but grow a bit tiresome and melodramatic by the time we reach the otherwise stellar Theseus. I could do without her breathy echoes on that one. Still, there’s not too much bad to say about The Bachelor.

The power of this album comes from the mystifyingly cohesive blend of piano ballads, orchestral choirs, heavy metal, and completely danceable electronic. Nearly each song builds toward a crescendo ending, making them feel relatively traditional. The title track is reminiscent of Overture, from his previous album, which I find to be the strongest song on that album (other than The Magic Position, duh, I’m not an idiot). The Bachelor isn’t really a huge departure, and I’m shocked that Universal let it get away. It’s loaded with commercial appeal, almost offering something for everyone. As hard core as songs like Battle get, this is surely a refinement of his skills, whether Wolf wants to see it that way or not. And here’s the beauty in reviewing him: he doesn’t give a shit what I think. He really is just a colorful, creative explosion making whatever it is that he’s going to make for as long as he wants to make it. It’s sheer coincidence that this ourpouring happens to be incredible most of the time. The Conqueror, originally conceived at the same time as The Bachelor is due out in 2010, and I can't wait. It's near completion as well, but he didn't want to overload us. Thanks, Patrick. He can drag it out into two different tours now, too, and I have a feeling that he enjoys the live gigs.

So David Bowie’s son is carrying on a fine tradition of avant-garde musicality, showmanship, and limitless creativity (not to mention ambiguous sexuality etc. etc.). Wait, what? He’s not? Are you sure?

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