Friday, June 10, 2011

Don't Listen Mode : Scott Walker : "The Drift"

All right, this is a text I had written last year but didn't post because the editorial line here is to only talk about stuff that I like, instead of chiming in negatively on music or films that I don't care about in the first place.
But I've just read it again and well, for a change, I'd thought I'd rant a little bit too.

What do you do when you’ve ran out of ideas?
Well, if you can’t write, you might as well write about the fact that you can’t write. If you’re Fitzgerald you might even draw a masterpiece from your personal void.

Otherwise, as Burroughs put it, you just have to start faking it.

Scott Walker can’t write songs anymore.
He can’t stay silent either. Which I can understand.
Do you really exist in the modern world without output? No you don’t.

Walker’s story began as a crooner of Broadway pop. Then he found out he could actually pen outstanding melodies, which resulted primarily in landmark solo albums.
Then there was writer’s block. All along the 70’s, Walker couldn’t find anything new so he spent the time covering country-western tunes. That was actually quite fun and I do listen a lot to his somewhat cheesy "Stretch" and "We Had it All" albums.
In 1978, he found four more songs within himself, and what songs : the fast-paced, post-nuke disco of "Shutout", the jazz-noise acapella oddity "Fat Mama Kick", and most importantly, the timeless "Nite Flights", later to be covered by long time fan Bowie, and "The Electrician", breathtaking, epic, definitive.

In 1984, the “Climate of Hunter” album was good too. Not as good, mind you. The melodies were less inspired, the whole work had a monolithic feel to it, like if Walker had had one good song idea and made variations of it.
On the 1995 “Tilt” album, nine songs share four different melodies. Compared to the previous album, there are less chord progressions, more ambient tracks.

It should have been evident to anybody who could hear : the man was running out of songs. We were witnessing a lake getting drier and drier.

Now if you can’t write a chord progression, you can always pretend that it’s daring to have only one chord over the whole song.

If you can’t write a melody either, you can pretend that your plan all along was to do atonal avant-garde songs.

If you're running on empty, if you're artistically dead, if all creativity has deserted you, if you're dry as a bone, hollow as the sky, well, my man, that's when you just have to start faking it.

“The Drift” is a fraud.

It makes me very angry to read positive reviews about it. It makes me pointlessly angry. I really shouldn't care. But positive reviews about “The Drift” evoke the inane blabber that modern art critics pour over paintings of white on white, or the pseudo-intellectual phraseology that literary critics would impose on awfully written, stupidly un-plot novels.It’s not arty, it’s not avant-garde, it’s just a fraud.
It’s not avant-garde, because it would have been avant-garde in 1960. It’s too late. You had your chance. Get over it.

From 1978 on, Walker has tried harder and harder to hide his inability to write a melody by pretending he was avant-garde, like an untalented, braindead painter who splashes feces on a white canvas and calls it modern art.
There’s no music on “The Drift”, but a clichéd collage of noise, that I would have found lazy and embarrassing in the early 90's, but today, well, it just makes me sad seeing how low some of most esteemed artists wallow in their last years.

1 comment:

Dale said...

You should review his new one too! Why not spike your blood pressure?