Scott Walker – Bish Bosch

Justin Spicer / December 3, 2012

Bish Bosch
Scott Walker
4AD
Previous: The Drift, 2006
Peers: Serge Gainsbourg, Leonard Cohen, Jacques Brel

The story of Scott Walker is one of rebirth. A man attuned to the deviant strands of art, Walker has never been a slave to expectation or time. He works at his own pace to fashion art that will stand long after his fleshy pod has withered deep in the earth. In fact, it would not be surprising to find that his last few breaths are spent guaranteeing his rotting corpse is being recorded as the finishing touch to his compositional epitaph.

A bit somber but such is the work of Walker. A history as long as beatnik’s rolling manuscript and as richly unpredictable, Walker emerges at the tail end of 2012 with Bish Bosch. A deeply affecting album that percolates beneath the skin with each successive listen, the collective works of Walker continue to stand as a testament to the world beyond the pop culture canon.

However, Bish Bosch stands as proof that as far removed from popular sentiment as Walker may be, his work is a warped reflection of it. Profoundly poetic verses, Walker’s operatic croon and the myriad musical influences feeding on the teeming compositions of Bish Bosch are as crucial to Western mainstream identity as Nielsen ratings and infotainment programming. It’s the lost catacombs of philosophical thought and personal crisis that populate the tale of Walker, raw and bare throughout Bish Bosch.

Standing monolithic among Bish Bosch is 21-minute epoch “SDSS14+13B (Zercon, A Flagpole Sitter).” Its whole embrace of sinewy silence during its bare beginning is striking among an album that ratchets up the musical tension through a slew of gross noises and spine-tingling accouterments  Here, the horror is also dramatically portrayed by Walker’s deep vocal resonance and urgent strings deconstructing French chamber music. Walker’s mind is clearly in the chamber pot: “No more dragging this wormy anus/’Round on shag piles of Persian den prace/I’ve severed my shrieking gonads/Feed them to your shrunken face”

Near the seven-minute mark, the monster explodes from Walker’s haunted obelisk, his voice becoming a seething stream of venom that not even Hitchcock could dream. Norman Bates rampages across the orchestral façade of “SDSS14+13B” without a care; knife stabs in the form of staccato guitar, torn percussion and classical strings. It’s the most frightening song and it’s one that will forever be ingrained if you choose never to hear it again (but why would you deprave yourself of such pleasures when the song vehemently would deny them from you—you must face it down).

Bish Bosch carries with it the means to erase Walker’s fanged transgressions with lighter, though equally tense, fare. “Epizootics!” blends militaristic snare with triumphant brass in a march toward the unseemly. “Tar” features the mosquito buzz of guitar and a group of machetes being sharpened in advance of exploring the heart of darkness. “Phrasing” is the funhouse mirror on the snarling grin of pop culture, with Walker taking on pop deconstruction through a composition that has a heavy beat and grinding guitars. It’s a mash-up of every Clear Channel auto-bot, beaten to smithereens by a ball-peen hammer and meticulously reassembled in the form of avant garde expression, keeping intact the catchiness if eliminating the syrupy corporate gloss for the burnt undercoating; the char on the marshmallow for being held in the fire for too long.

Bish Bosch is through-the-looking-glass. For all the cheer and complacency we project, Walker knows what festers and boils underneath. His is a career redefined with each release. A man once a sex symbol and pop star now the Phantom of the Opera, carefully plotting the doom of the world while constructing its apt and hideously accurate replacement. Few are ready to face their true reflection; a vile representation of their inner workings. Walker places it front and center, unafraid of sharing it for it unburdens him and those who choose to stand before it. Bish Bosch is the perfect summary of a year, a decade, a century…

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