SCOTT WALKER, "The Drift"
There's a point in the waning moments of "The Escape," the penultimate track on Scott Walker's uneasy listening masterwork "The Drift" -- only the oddball singer's third album in 30 years -- where WalThere's a point in the waning moments of "The Escape," the penultimate track on Scott Walker's uneasy listening masterwork "The Drift" -- only the oddball singer's third album in 30 years -- where Walker shifts from his peculiar croon to a malevolent Donald Duck impression. If you've made it that far, however, then you've already been subjected to music so bizarre, so startling, so challenging, that cartoon voices may in fact introduce a reassuring note of normalcy.
Since leaving the Walker Brothers and embarking on an unpredictable solo career, Walker has grown as unique as he has become reclusive. At this point he's a far different man (or at least a far different artist) than the one who influenced the likes of David Bowie, Dead Can Dance or Brian Eno, instead composing music that eschews comfort in favor of sounds and textures at once harrowing, horrific, confrontational, dark, and disturbing.
Is there a method to the madness, to the abrasive noise and avant-garde dissonance? Indeed. By creating music meant to mess with your head, Walker drives you clinging to his lyrics for ballast, and there you'll find a morbid, cynical and slightly perverse mind concerned about current events, specifically the troubling rumblings of fascism's return and how other ghosts of the past come back to haunt us.
Of course, part of the challenge is finding the message between such unexpected outbursts as "I'll punch a donkey in the streets of Galway!" but they're there. "Clara," for example, is performed from the point of view of Mussolini's mistress as she's publicly flogged. "Buzzers" is (apparently) about ethnic cleansing in Bosnia. And then there's "Jesse," which imagines Elvis Presley dreaming of his dead twin as a metaphor for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Walker himself has publicly illuminated these three songs, and while they would have probably remained inscrutable without his assistance, there's no missing the sense of dread and modern day terror they're meant to invoke. -- Joshua Klein