Release Date: Dec 4, 2012
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Experimental, Avant-Garde, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Experimental Rock
The sloppiness of Scott Walker’s new album is built into its title. Bish Bosch is bish bosh — a thankless task done in a slapdash way. And, sure, by Scott Walker’s standards, six years is a relatively short time to piece together a new record. But a bish is also slang for bitch, a misbirth, a botched birth, and Hieronymus Bosch is, of course, a painter of botched worlds.
Bish Bosch is, according to Scott Walker, the final recording in the trilogy that began with 1995’s Tilt and continued in 2006’s The Drift. Its title combines urban slang for the word "bitch" and the last name of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch. Like its predecessors, Bish Bosch is not an easy listen initially. It's utterly strange, yet alluring.
Scott WalkerBish Bosch[4AD; 2012]By Ray Finlayson; December 3, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetAt the end of the 2006 biographic film 30 Century Man, Scott Walker talks about where his music might go next. After giving birth to his then most recent album, The Drift, fans, admirers, and listeners wondered what they had to look forward to next, even though it might take another decade to appear. Walker tentatively answered twofold: “My dilemma now is to try to go for something with smaller forces that I can do some touring with, or just let my imagination roll, like I always have.
But what’s really amazing about Bish Bosch is that all of its myriad components are somehow pulled in to exist on the same insane planet. The source of the gravity? Walker’s immense, disgruntled-god croon, of course. Much like the works of Hieronymus Bosch—the album’s namesake painter—it’s foolish to try to absorb the whole piece on first listen, but isolated portions are readily appreciable in their own right.
Scott Walker is the man who went from performing richly baroque pop to creating records based around samples of pig carcass-boxing, there’s nothing he could do to surprise or shock us anymore… Or perhaps not, as not only does Bish Bosch come a mere six years after his last album proper, The Drift, a relatively short gap by his recent standards (made even shorter if 2007’s contemporary dance score And Who Shall Go To The Ball? And What Shall Go To The Ball? is also considered), but the name perhaps suggests that the album might be an unusually light-hearted romp; an ode to the Jamie Oliver ‘chuck everything into the pan, bish bash bosh’ school of cookery perhaps?* No need to worry though as it turns out there’s a more serious, artistically credible reasoning behind that title, hinting at street slang and Hieronymus Bosch, and despite the odd burst of humour – the fart noises of Corps De Blah are particularly unexpected, and not entirely welcome - the album’s contents are as dark and generally inscrutable as you’d come to expect from following Walker’s recent career. The instrumentation might seem relatively sensible – the closest you’ll find to butchery here is the incessant menacing scrape of machetes in Tar – but Walker’s tenor in a wind-tunnel croon is still the loneliest sound imaginable, and the lyrics are just as obtuse yet death and decay-driven as ever. As with the work of any artist of advanced years (Walker’s currently 69, although the consensus seems to be that he neither looks nor acts it), it’s tempting to claim that the work is a meditation on mortality, despite the fact that the album’s accompanying notes stress the importance of not treating the work as autobiographical.
Building upon his groundbreaking last two albums, Bish Bosch is Scott Walker's (aka Noel Scott Engel) latest aural descent into the abyss. The album takes its name from a pun on the British expression "bish bosh," a slang term for something completed quickly and often without due care, a knowingly ironic nod to the fact this is only Walker's third solo album in close to two decades. The Bosch in the title presumably refers to medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch ? and not the popular brand of power tools ? whose chaotic paintings of hellish torture are a fitting visual match for Walker's dark, often historical themes.
Bish Bosch starts with 30 seconds of what sounds like a jackhammer and ends with a funereal rendition of "Jingle Bells" for solo xylophone. In-between, there are tense silences, horror-movie strings, and 20-minute songs without verses or choruses. At the center of it all is an old man wailing about cutting off his own balls and feeding them to someone.
Scott Walker albums are like reading James Joyce's Ulysses. It's impossible to digest in only one sitting and can even drive you mad with its labyrinthine web of allusions during a second, fifth, or tenth pass. Over 45 years into his recording career, the former U.K. boy band semi-star (as one of The Walker Brothers) is still crafting art pieces that are as harrowing as they are visionary.
It seems unlikely, but there may exist a fan of Scott Walker's 1960s oeuvre, confused and upset by what he's been up to in the last 15 years, who will nevertheless approach his 14th solo album in a spirit of optimism. Perhaps Bish Bosch's two immediate predecessors will have sated the 69-year-old singer-songwriter's desire to make complex, baffling, avant-garde music, and this new venture will be a return to the lush balladry of his first four solo albums: this, according to Walker, was the logic upon which the major label that put out his 1995 album Tilt operated, believing that once he'd got it out of his system, he'd come to his senses and make Scott 5. If so, that optimism is likely to evaporate very soon after pressing play: the first thing you hear is 30 seconds of drums that aren't so much being pounded as punished, overlaid with a kind of electronic shriek.
There are machetes, there are farts. There’s a little bit of Ennio Morricone, there’s a strong whiff of Danny Elfman. There’s a dime bag of laughs, there’s a hallway of horrors. It’s this sort of back-and-forth that could lead someone to believe they’re actually dead while listening to Scott Walker’s latest opus, Bish Bosch.
Review Summary: A Ted Chippington-esque album; a kind of humour that challenges you to not find it funny. Scott Walker has been balls deep in the avant-garde for so long now - for longer than most of the people reading this have even been seriously listening to music, I'd wager - and has given out so little to journalists in that time that it's easy to forget that there's a man behind this music, that somebody's mind is conjuring up these unearthly albums. Even more than that, it's easy to assume that his journey from "Make It Easy on Yourself" and "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Any More" to "Farmer in the City (Remembering Pasolini)" and "Clara" has coincided with a breakdown in his mental state; the mythology surrounding the likes of Syd Barrett and Peter Green has taught us as listeners as much over the years.
Late in Scott Walker’s new album, Bish Bosch, you can hear blades clashing behind his voice on “Tar”. It’s no surprise to hear that slicing sound in Walker’s work, even if it’s haunting in its own stark, beautiful way. It’s no surprise because Walker’s work cuts it, smashes it, breaks it down. Walker creates anti-spectacles.
Scott Walker began his career as a self-consciously devised throwback, a ‘50s-style chanteur in an old-fashioned vocal trio, a seemingly conservative choice for the freewheeling mid ‘60s. Yet, as he’s proven in the years since, Walker wasn’t so much 10 years behind as he was 20 years ahead, developing an off-kilter brand of parasitic pop by unceremoniously feasting on the carcass of the past, twisting familiar forms to expose inherent possibilities for discomfort within them. Gifted with a smooth, impeccably velvety voice, he’s used it as both a façade and an ironic tool, both masking and enabling a pattern of increasingly inventive experimentation.
Lord, what a mess. In a peerless career that now spans seven decades, including shape-shifting turns from ‘50s teen idol to ‘60s singer/songwriter to ‘70s has-been to ‘80s art-rocker, Scott Walker has spent the past 20-odd years mastering a sui generis style of chthonic cabaret, his otherworldly croon soaring over gorgeous orchestration, slaughterhouse dirges and cavernous silence. 1995’s Tilt is the rarest of masterpieces: a landmark that has spawned no imitators.
As befitting an album released in December, there is a seasonal song at the end of Bish Bosch, the latest work by Scott Walker. Bells jingle all the way. The Day the "Conducator" Died marks Christmas in an unorthodox fashion, however. Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, known as the "Conducator", was executed by firing squad on Christmas Day, 1989.
Like much of his output in recent memory, Scott Walker’s 14th album is not the best introduction to his legacy for a generation of music fans who were, perhaps, turned onto his genius by The Last Shadow Puppets, who ripped off his late-’60s golden period admirably. That voice of his is still a powerfully unique warble even at his 70 years of age. But how anyone outside the walls of a mental asylum could genuinely enjoy the annoyingly repetitive industrial drum-throbs, aimless experimento-guitar crunches and lyrics about “reeking gonads” that characterise songs called things like ‘Epizootics!’ is beyond me.
In an essay written to accompany the release of Scott Walker's new album Bish Bosch, Rob Young claims the former Walker Brother has, over the course of a sequence of records beginning with 1984's Climate of Hunter, developed "a late style utterly at odds with the music that made him a superstar". One can see why many – even those as clued-up as Young – might feel this to be true. From certain perspectives, Walker's career hinges on the break of the mid-eighties, before which he was a performer of skewed romantic pop, and after which he became incorrigibly committed to envelope-pushing indebted to the literature (notably Beckett and Paul Celan) and music (particularly György Ligeti and Iannis Xenakis) of postwar European modernism.
Scott Walker’s Bish Bosch, the final album out of a thematic trilogy that includes Tilt and The Drift, is a complex contradiction, much like the man himself—dense with convoluted metaphors, dark imagery and even low-brow fart humor. It is a difficult album to process but contains nuggets of brilliance scattered throughout the cinematic intensity and uncomfortable lulls. Almost seemingly designed to offend, Bish Bosch could soundtrack a particularly nightmarish David Lynch film.The album starts off with 30 seconds of pounding percussion, followed by Walker’s deep baritone moan wailing throughout “See You Don’t Bump His Head,” the first track.
El Perro Del Mar “Don’t want to feel lonely,” sings El Perro del Mar — the recording name of the Swedish songwriter Sarah Assbring — from the isolation of the recording studio on her fifth album, “Pale Fire” (The Control Group). Love, particularly how elusive it is, is her continuing ….
Scott Walker’s releases have always had an elaborate and dramatic persona. 2006’s ‘The Drift’ was a fine example of this: many critics likening its melodrama and surreal commentary to a disturbing play/film.So consider ‘Bish Bosch’, his first album for just over half a decade, an equally abstract, if not more, disturbing horror story. First of all, the title refers to, according to Walker, “Mythological, all-encompassing, giant woman artists.” And like ‘The Drift,’ most of its lyrical themes flow with a strong sense of symbolism.
Uncompromising, truly unique music from the experimental veteran. Ian Wade 2012 Scott Walker’s been at it for over 50 years, producing his more challenging work for the best part of half of that. He scored his first chart-topper in 1965, when The Walker Brothers’ Make It Easy on Yourself held off competition from Sonny & Cher, Ken Dodd and The Rolling Stones.
The transformation of Scott Walker from minor figure in ’60s pop (as the sepulchral baritone behind the Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy on Yourself”) to reclusive avant-garde cult artist has been a strange one, so much so that some folks who saw the 2006 documentary “Scott Walker: 30 Century Man” wondered if it was a hoax. Those same people would likely consider “Bish Bosch” an endurance test, and they’d probably fail it. It’s not just that it’s larded with harsh dissonance; the compositions, arrangements, poesy, and performances come at the listener in discrete shards.