SCOTT WALKER AND SUN O-SOUSED.
SCOTT WALKER AND SUN O-SOUSED.
If I was to describe Scott Walker in one word, “chameleon” is the word I’d use. Scott started life as lush pop ballads with The Walker Brothers. On leaving The Walker Brothers, Scott’s style began to evolve.
As Scott’s solo career began, he stuck with the same formula that had served him so well with The Walker Brothers. Not for long. Soon, Scott wanted to create much more innovative music.
Scott Walker didn’t want to be pigeonholed as a balladeer. Too many artists had made that mistake.
So Scott decided to learn from their mistakes. After all, one day, maybe soon, people would tire of Scott Walker the balladeer. Deep down, Scott was tiring of dawning the role of Scott Walker the balladeer.
He wanted to move his music in different directions. Scott was a talented songwriter, musician, arranger and producer. The other word people used when describing Scott was successful.
From his debut album Scott, which was released on September 16th 1967, his music had found a wide audience. That’s not surprising. The Walker Brothers had just released their third album. They were riding the crest of a wave of success. Although this pleased Scott, he wanted people to see him as a serious artist. So he decided to embark upon a parallel solo career.
When Scott was released, it was a mixture of covers and Scott’s own material, including tracks like Montague Terrace (In Blue), Such a Small Love and Always Coming Back to You. The covers were a mixture of songs by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, including Amsterdam. Along with movie songs and covers of contemporary songs, these tracks became Scott. This eclectic selection of material found favour with record buyers and critics.
Released in September 1967, Scott was critically acclaimed by critics. They saw a new side to Scott Walker and his music. Record buyers enjoyed Scott. It reached number three in the UK. For Scott this was the start of a three album run where he could do now wrong.
Seven months later, Scott released his sophomore Scott 2, in in the UK. Scott 2 followed a similar formula as his debut Scott. This meant covers of Jacques Brel’s Next, The Girls and the Dogs and Jackie, plus Scott Walker originals like The Amorous Humphrey Plugg, The Girls from the Streets and Plastic Palace People. The rest of Scott 2, was made up of covers of contemporary songs.
On its release in the UK, in March 1968, critics noticed that Scott 2 was a much more grownup album. Its lyrics were deemed controversial, and even risque, featuring songs about sexuality and the decadence that was prevalent in swinging London. Scott 2 seemed to strike a nerve with record buyers.
Scott 2 climbed the charts, reaching number one in the UK. For Scott, this was critics forecast, was the start of a long and successful career for Scott Walker, balladeer.
Sadly, this success only lasted one further album. By the time Scott released Scott 3, record buyers were turning their back on his music.
The reason for this, was Scott was tiring of being a balladeer. He wanted to stretch his legs musically, and innovate. So for Scott 3, he penned ten tracks and covered three tracks that Jacques Brel cowrote. When recording began, Scott brought in arranger Wally Stott.
With Wally Stott in tow, Scott recorded an album that’s best described as Scot dawning the role of a Las Vegas crooner. Sometimes, he almost parodies the role. It’s as if he sticking two fingers up at the crooners who headed to Vegas for vast paydays. During Scott 3, the lush arrangements take a harsh twist. Again, it’s as if Scott is being contrary. Critics however “got” Scott 3.
Critics understood what Scott was trying to achieve on Scott 3. The album was well received. However, album sales weren’t as good as Scott’s two previous albums. Despite reaching number three in the UK, sales of Scott 3 were worrying.
Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his T.V. Series.
So it’s no surprise that four months later, in June 1969, Phillips released Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his T.V. Series. It songs that featured on his various television programs. They featured Scott Walker the balladeer and, Scott Walker delivering a series of easy listening songs. This was what his fans wanted.
Scott: Scott Walker Sings Songs from his T.V. Series features a series of heavily orchestrated, M.O.R. songs. It wasn’t vintage Scott Walker. What it was, was Scott’s record company cashing in on an artist whose popularity was on the slide. On Scott 3’s release, in July 1969, it reached number seven in the UK. This was the end of a golden period in Scott Walker’s career.
Stylistically, Scott 4 was very different from his previous album. Gone was Scott Walker balladeer, and purveyor of cover versions of movie songs and Jacque Brel track. Instead, Scott wanted to be seen as a series artist. His covers of Jacque Brel hinted at this. On Scott 4, the transformation is complete.
Scott 4 features ten songs written by, Noel Scott Engel, Scott’s real name They’re best described as baroque pop. These songs were produced by John Franz, who’d produced Scott’s previous albums. The pair produced the most ambitious and forward thinking album of Scott’s career.
Sadly, Scott 4 failed to chart upon its release in November 1969. Critics, however, loved Scott 4. So much so, it’s seen as one of Scott’s best albums. Released to critical acclaim, critics admired Scott’s willingness to risk everything on Scott 4. He could just as easily have produced another album of M.O.R. balladry. That wasn’t for Scott Walker.
After Scott 4, Scott Walker became a musical chameleon. He explored avant-garde musical. Sometimes, his albums moved in the direction of modernism and post modernism. Scott even drew inspiration from classical music. However, this was all at the expense of commercial success.
‘Til the Band Comes In, released in December 1970, was the start of a period where commercial success eluded Scott. An ambitious album, ‘Til the Band Comes In failed to win over Scott’s fans. Neither did The Moviegoer released in 1972. It was a compilation of movie themes, where Scott dawned the role of balladeer. The Moviegoer failed to chart. Neither did Any Day Now, released in May 1973, nor Stretch, released in November 1973. Then when the ironically titled We Had It All, failed to chart upon its release in August 1974, Scott had had enough.
Ten years passed before Scott released another solo album. In the interim period, there was a Walker Brothers’ reunion. Mostly, Scott was a reclusive figure. That was until March 1984, when Scott released Climate of Hunter, which reached number fifty-one in the UK. After that, Scott’s released just three further albums, until now.
Another eleven years passed, and in May 1995, Scott released Tilt to critical acclaim. It reached just number sixty in the UK. Tilt was one of his finest solo albums, where a musical innovator reminded music what he was capable of. However, another eleven years passed before we heard from Scott again,
Drift, released in May 2006, exactly eleven years after Tilt, was worth the wait. It was vintage Scott Walker. Like a fine wine, he was maturing with age. He was an ambitious and innovative artist, determined to push musical boundaries. This is what he did on Tilt, which only reached number fifty-one in the UK. For Scott, this must have been a huge disappointment.
It was another six years, before Scott raised his head above the parapet, and released Bisch Bosch in December 2012. It was well received by critics, who hailed the mercurial and elusive Scott Walker the comeback King. Sadly, Bisch Bosch stalled at ninety-five in the UK. With Scott sixty-nine in 2012, some critics wondered if we’d ever hear from Scott Walker again?
During a solo career that began in 1967, Scott Walker has hardly been prolific. He released fourteen solo albums and two soundtracks, 1999s Pola X and 2007s And Who Shall Go to the Ball? And What Shall Go to the Ball? Many critics felt that wasn’t a lot to show for a forty-seven year solo career. However, it’s about quality, not quantity. Furthermore, Scott’s back with a new collaboration with experimental metal band Sun O.
Released on 4AD on 20th October 2014, Soused is a collaboration between Scott and Sun O. It features five tracks written by Scott Walker. On these tracks, Scott and Sun O unleash a myriad of interments and effects.
Soused features Scott and Sun O, plus a few friends. The rhythm section features drummer Ian Thomas and guitarists Greg Anderson, Stephen O’Malley and Tos Nieuwenhuizen who also played synths. They’re joined by trumpeter Guy Barker, saxophonist Andy Findon and keyboardist Mark Warman, who also added shakers. Scott and Peter Walker took charge of drum programming. Peter also adds keyboards and FX. When Soused was finished, the result was an early Christmas present, for fans of the elusive and innovative, Scott Walker. You’ll realise why, when I tell you about Soused.
Crystalline synths and searing, rocky guitars open Brando, which opens Soused. Scott’s vocal is emotive and heartfelt. When it drops out, whips crack and the arrangement drones. It’s an unstoppable force. Then Scott’s vocal returns. It literally, oozes emotion and drama. Machine gun guitars fire off fierce licks. The crystalline synths return. They playing their part in a compelling, droning, moody collaboration. Much later, a free jazz trumpet punctuates this genre melting arrangement. Everything from avant-garde, experimental, drone rock, free jazz, baroque pop and rock melt into one. My only reservation are the whips. They’re unnecessary and overpower other parts of the arrangement. In doing so, they stop a good track, becoming a great one.
Bells chime as Herod 2014 unfolds. Synths bubble and the droning arrangement returns. It has a post apocalyptic sound. It’s as if it’s signalling that the bomb has dropped. A wailing, discordant free jazz saxophone sounds. Then as blistering, moody guitar licks are unleashed, Scott’s melodramatic vocal enters. Behind him, disparate musical genres unite during this eleven minute epic. Again, avant-garde, experimental, drone rock, free jazz, baroque pop and rock can be heard as Scott rolls back the years, and shows what we’ve been missing for too long. His partners in crime Sun O, prove the perfect foil for Scott, taking his music in a new and unexpected direction.
That’s the case on Bull. Just like the other tracks on Soused, it’s a lengthy track. Ominously, the arrangement drones, taking on a cinematic sound. What sounds like footsteps can be heard. Then Scott’s dramatic, powerful vocal enters. Searing, screaming guitars accompany him. So do sound effects. They punctuate the arrangement, before thunderous drums make their presence felt. Later, the arrangement becomes eerie and gothic. This is perfect for Scott’s earnest, theatrical vocal. He throws himself into the track. Just like an actor, he seems to be playing a role, drawing inspiration from baroque pop, modern classical and opera. Meanwhile, Sun O provide a a dramatic, cinematic backdrop for Scott’s vocal masterclass.
Guitars shriek and feedback on Fetish. A drums sounds in the distance. So do sound effects and cinematic synths. Scott’s vocal has the same, earnest, theatrical sound. He’s come a long way from singing Make It Easy On Yourself. His old fans wouldn’t recognise him, as he pushes new musical boundaries. That’s not surprising. Constantly, Scott has produced innovative and challenging music. It’s sometimes ethereal. That’s until the droning arrangement unfolds. This adds an element of drama. That’s the case with the drums. They add a mesmeric sound, before the music returns to its earlier ethereal sound, showcasing Scott Walker, forever the troubled troubadour.
Closing Soused is Lullaby. Shakers join a droning arrangement. It’s dramatic, gothic sound is the perfect contrast to Scott’s vocal. It almost has a classical influence. Again, it’s earnest and heartfelt. The rest of the arrangement is understated, playing a supporting role to Scott’s baroque vocal. Later, the arrangement becomes eerie, cinematic, broody and ominous. The drama builds, and the arrangement becomes almost discordant. As for Scott, his vocal is questioning and melancholy, as the arrangement fades into the distance. This proves poignant, as I’m left wondering when or whether we’ll ever hear from Scott Walker again?
As a longtime Scott Walker fan, the release of a new album, is a cause for celebration. That’s because, in a career lasting forty-seven years, Scott has released just fourteen solo albums and two soundtracks. Soused Scott’s collaboration with Sun O, is a welcome addition to his discography. It’s a reminder of Scott’s unique and inimitable voice. That’s not all. Soused is a reminder that Scott Walker is one of the most ambitious and innovative musicians of the past fifty years. Sadly, for most of Scott’s solo career, commercial success has eluded him.
His career started successfully, with four top ten UK albums. However, when Scott strayed from the tried and tested formula of balladry and cover versions, he lost his mass market appeal. However, from Scott 4, Scott Walker became the critic’s darling.
The more commercial success eluded Scott, it seemed the more the critics hung on his every word. This has been the case for thirty years, when he released Climate of Hunter. Since then, Scott Walker, has been the critic’s choice. That’s continued with Soused, which was released on 4AD on 20th October 2014.
Soused is a groundbreaking, genre-melting fusion from Scott Walker and Sun O. They combine everything from ambient, avant-garde, drone rock, experimental, industrial, psychedelia and rock. These genres become one on Soused, where Scott Walker and Sun O push musical boundaries to their limits, and even, way beyond.
SCOTT WALKER AND SUN O-SOUSED.