Monday, June 28, 2010

Only silence is shame

Scott Walker's 1972 album The Moviegoer is far from his best. If you're not familiar with him, I say start at the beginning, with the four numbered Scott albums, which see him working in a Jacques Brel/crooner-inspired style, with increasing experimentalism as the albums go on, frequently detailing seedy, decadent, disturbing, or violent imagery. Then move on to his later, far more out-there albums, from the Low*-inspired Nite Flights (technically credited to The Walker Brothers; the first four tracks are Scott's and are brilliant, the rest is disposable), to the legitimately insane, and terrifying, Tilt and The Drift. Then, if you feel like you want more, you can branch out, seeking out albums like 1984's interesting but very very 80s Climate of Hunter or the uneven-but-worth-it Til the Band Comes In, or this album.

It's entirely covers of movie themes, and most of it indulges the very crooneriest of Walker's croonery leanings. It's enjoyable in a way, but it's just absolutely nothing up to his other stuff. Except for "The Ballad of Sacco and Vanzetti," originally from the 1971 movie Sacco and Vanzetti. The original version, by the surprising pair of Ennio Morricone and Joan Baez, is great. Musically, I actually prefer Scott Walker's.

True, he cuts out some of the best lyrics ("Against us is the law/With its immensity of strength and power/Against us is the law!/Police know how to make a man/A guilty or an innocent/Against us is the power of police!"), and, in fact, most of the lyrics, and, sure, you could take it as cheesy that he replaces them with a bunch of Biblical blessed ares and the text of the Emma Lazarus poem from the Statue of Liberty, but whatever. I find it kind of startlingly powerful, when combined with the mournful-but-active rhythm (I imagine very sad go-go dancers), the chamber pop strings and harpsichord, and Walker's unmatchably intense vocals.

*The Bowie album, that is

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