Thursday, July 19, 2012

Scottmania, Part Four

We have arrived at Scott Walker's fourth solo album and the almost final solo album for a long time to feature original material by Scott himself (There was also a "Scott 5" but I will discuss it sometime later). Many people consider Scott 4 his absolute masterpiece which is of course open to debate. I like to think about Scott 1–4 as equals. Even though there weren't that many Scott Walker compositions on Scott 1 and 2, the cover songs reflect Scott's personality in some way and when they don't, they are at least extremely well-rendered by Scott. Scott 4 is 100 % Scott Walker-written material (credited to Engel, as it is his real name).

Whereas Scott 3 was quite slow and often in 3/4, Scott 4 has perhaps a better balance of slow and mid-tempo songs. Still, Scott 4 is not really a super high-energy album of rock&roll but compared to Scott 3 it has a faster average tempo. Scott 4 is also the most pop-oriented solo album Scott has ever created. There is no sign of the crooner music style and the arrangements have elements of folk, and of course baroque pop.

The World's Strongest Man is, for a change, a song the lyrics of which are quite easy to understand. Even though you probably thought Scott's vocals couldn't get any more tender and emotional, they actually do just that on this album. One of Scott's biggest accomplisments regarding this album is, in fact, his vocals that seem to have improved from perfection...

To me, Boy Child is definitely one of the most memorable songs here. First of all, there is a strong connection to You Still Believe in Me. There are a couple of things that connect these songs, one of them being the comforting mood. Scott's performance has a hypnotizing effect. Angels of Ashes has a pretty similar effect, although I still feel the need to complain a bit about the melody sounding too much like Goin' Back.

Scott even gives us an anti-war protest song, Hero of the War, which is an extremely well-written song, The lyrical content comes across quite heavy but Scott makes it all very light to listen with his rendition. Could this be one of the reasons why he later decided to "become" a tenor (instead of baritone that he really is) – his serious songs have a soothing effect even when he intends to cause restlessness?

The Seventh Seal, a song about Ingmar Begman's film of the same title may be the structurally simplest of all these ten songs. Despite having only one part, the song evolves a great deal on the way. The Seventh Seal and The Old Man's Back Again (Dedicated To The Neo-Stalinist Regime) both have some quite impressive choir vocals. These vocals give both the songs a touch of unease even though Scott again channels some really easy-going and careless vibes. What a curious contradiction, you could say!

Rhymes of Goodbye is the final song and I think it is my #1 favorite from Scott. I actually like the song so much that I could call it some kind of a guilty pleasure... Except that I don't really feel guilty about it. But there are times when I listen to it over and over and over... Rhymes of Goodbye has quite a strong folk rock vibe. In fact, Duchess is a quite similar song but I am not quite as much fond of it. Still, don't ignore Duchess, it is lovely.

And there we have it: Scott 1, 2, 3 and 4. Fortunately, this is most definitely not the end of Scott Walker's fantastic pop music. Scottmania will continue.

Music from Scott 4 (YouTube):

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