Sound: Scott Walker is considered somewhat of a recluse in the record industry. As a member of 60s teen heartthrobs The Walker Brothers, he first appeared in the public eye with number-one hits such as "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)" and "Make It Easy On Yourself" before leaving the group in 1968. Heavily influenced by Belgian singer Jacques Brel, he released a string of solo albums spanning the late 1960s, with the first four garnering much critical acclaim for their starker sound and Scott's astounding voice. However, during the 1970s, after a string of commercially unsuccessful albums with no original material, Scott slowly and ultimately disappeared off of the music industry's radar.
Since 1984, Scott Walker has released only three albums.
After a ten year hiatus, Walker returned with Climate of Hunter, an abstract album that would mark his only contribution to 1980s music. Many suspected this to be the return of Scott Walker, and that a new album would surely be on the way before long. But the wait was long. 11 years long.
1995's Tilt was an avant-garde, bleak album full of cinematic melodrama that received much praise from music giants Brian Eno and David Bowie, long-time fans of Walker. The album's barren sound was deeply unsettling, with Walker's now haunting voice resonating over sweeping string arrangements or near silence. It was evident that Walker was distilling his sound to the very bone, to the sounds of a Gothic nightmare. The wait was another 11 years, but no one could have expected what came next.
The Drift is simply terrifying; it sounds like a sailing into an uncharted part of the world. The music is dark, very dark, filled with disturbing images and blocks of horrifying sound. Walker's voice appears over a monolithic landscape, before slamming into terrifying string crescendos and truly bizarre percussion (a slab of meat was used in Clara). The album crawls forward slowly, with lyrics talking of Elvis explaining the 9/11 terrorist attacks to his stillborn twin brother Jesse. On the album's third track, Walker sings: I'm the only one left alive.
Knocks on a door accompany cries of bang, bang, bang, bang on Cue, a track that moves like a Stanley Kubrick movie: slow and deliberate, with no obligation of a happy ending. Donkeys whine on Jolson and Jones while a kick-drum pounds on Cossacks Are. Textures change without a moment's notice. Clara builds from soft organ chords to nauseating strings and back again.
The Drift is an incredible album, filled with horror so intense and focused that it's difficult to describe. Simply put, The Drift is the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. // 10
Lyrics: Lyrically, The Drift is open to volumes of analysis. With topics ranging from Mussolini to Disneyland, Walker's haunting voice is a perfect match for the stark nature of the songs. Jesse begins with whispers of pow, pow, symbolizing the two hijacked planes crashing into the World Trade Center while his cries fill the speakers during the intro of Hand Me Ups. The imagery is gruesome, with Walker singing of a body dipped in blood in the moonlight on Clara. Lyrics like Gavotte for the Kaiser/Bolero for Beuys on the twisted ballad-y A Lover Loves may sound pretentious, but Walker proves with the dynamics of the songs and the twisted imagery of the words that pretension isn't always synonymous with bullsh*t. // 9
Overall Impression: The Drift further cements Scott Walker as a true artist. It may be bleak, it may be scary, but if you're willing to face a few demons, The Drift is a very human album. Scott proves that, while still considered a recluse, a freak in the music world, he is very aware of what goes on in the world, if only to put it in the most terrifying perspective possible. Some people will never understand how anyone can listen to what some can barely consider songs anymore, but this is not an album for everybody. With "The Drift", Scott Walker has truly made artist's music. // 9