Music Reviews
The Magic Position

Patrick Wolf The Magic Position

(Loog) Rating - 6/10

The third album from this precocious 23-year-old sees Wolf perfect the use of the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style of production that he has been developing throughout his career so far, but also finds him in a refreshingly upbeat mood.

The opening track, Overture, is all driving acoustic guitars and pounding beats, which may or may not be the thumping of sacks on the decks of a 17th century pirate ship. Dark and majestically brooding, the album gets off to a typically lupine start.

The title track, however, takes a different tack. A giddy love song that's as camp as a row of pink sequinned tents at a Scissor Sisters' concert, it celebrates a blossoming affair. Uplifting, stirring, this gives Rufus Wainwright a run for his money in the high-camp songwriting stakes.

The two singles should have, by rights done much better than they have. Accident and Emergency is a restrained but infectious pop song. And Bluebells is the stand out track of the album: fireworks scream into the sky and explode in drum beats, and no stone goes unturned, as pianos, squelchy electric effects, and pounding beats as masterfully pulled together beneath a Snow White story drenched in Grimm fairytale imagery.

Every young songwriter's dream grandmother, Marianne Faithful, growls her way through the duet, Magpie. If you find the idea of a gravel-voiced icon singing about a little boy crawling through "her bracken" appealing, well, this is the song for you. Personally, I am most often torn between laughing and vomiting but other times completely caught up in the strange sorcery of this track. But I swear, if I ever hear the one-for-sorrow magpie rhyme used in a song again I will hunt the perpetrator down and make them count the holes in the plate of a steam iron in a mirror, from the imprint left on their face. Only Kate Bush can get away with this sort of weirdness.

Instrumental track, The Secret Garden includes foghorn-like wolf howls and phone dialling tones. And perhaps marks the point at which Wolf should have stopped putting eggs in this particular pudding, especially as it careens into the pile up of chimes and horns and bleeps that is Get Lost, a dizzying spiralling Cure-like love song.

I hazard to second guess about Wolf's love life, but much of the album is the sound of someone enjoying a blossoming romance; although sometimes, such as on the loungy Enchantment the sentiment turns to schmaltz.

If the album loses its way somewhat from the middle, Wolf rallies fantastically for the final vocal track Stars, a beautiful arrangement of synthesized sounds, strings, beats, and repetitious vocals.

Sometimes pantomime, often deeply moving, and frequently uplifting in the extreme, The Magic Position is a playful, joyous, and accomplished album. Wolf sometimes succeeds in emulating Kate Bush's knack for combining the utterly bizarre with godlike musicianship, but sometimes he falls short. Ultimately, this album is not as good as but more accessible than his sophomore Wind in the Wires. The Magic Position should win this always engaging and worthwhile artist some more followers, and bodes well for Wolf's 2007.