Patrick Wolf and Sonic Youth, reviewed by us, hust for you. Here's what to spend your hard-earned cash on
4/5 The Bachelor Patrick Wolf begins his latest record with an overture. He did the same with his pop breakout and last release, The Magic Position (indeed, the opening track of that album was even called ‘Overture’.) It’s a significant move for the British singer-songwriter as he constructs his own modern, hyper-dramatic rock symphonies.
Wolf can be almost comically emotive; his low, sad croon evokes Robert Smith. On ‘Hard Times’, a Dickensian tip of the hat, Wolf emerges through a cloud of electronics and cascading string sections to deliver a simultaneously heart-breaking and stirring summation of the present day’s travails. In the process he introduces a new genre: inspirational goth.
The Bachelor is the first disc of a double album; the first movement in a two-part symphony. Its complement, The Conqueror, is due next year. The record doesn’t feel like half of anything, though. It’s a complete look at loneliness and love that calls upon Wolf’s nearly endless talents: he plays the organ, harp, violin, accordion and many other instruments, piping it all through complicated electronic streams. Some of the largest moments come on the biblical ‘Damaris’, where, toward the end, a choir chants ‘rise up’ and Wolf joins in. A call to the afterlife, the chorus aptly describes his sagas; they move just like Heaven. Colin St John Available at www.7digital.com.
4/5 The Eternal Sonic Youth’s most recent live sets have explored free-form improv, but this latest high-profile full-length album – the outfit’s first for Matador after nearly 20 years on DGC/Geffen – is relatively straightforward, featuring moody-yet-driving avant-punk in the vein of 2006’s Rather Ripped.
As familiar as this disc sounds, it offers plenty of thrills. ‘Malibu Gas Station’ sums up Sonic Youth’s mastery of experimental pop: you’d have to look back to Television to find guitar interplay as simultaneously tasteful and utterly wizardly as what Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo come up with here. And ‘What We Know’ – on which the axmen summon thickets of spiky noise over a steady midtempo groove – is like a master class in the art of outré shredding.
But in classic Sonic Youth fashion, vocals are often a weak point for The Eternal. Kim Gordon’s breathy caterwaul works well during high-energy opener ‘Sacred Trickster’ but grates during the more textural ‘Calming The Snake’. And, in light of the heartfelt, understated singing on Moore’s ’07 solo effort, Trees Outside The Academy, it’s disappointing to hear him opting for his overdressed post-Lou Reed sneer on ‘Poison Arrow’. But, despite such rough elements, The Eternal still serves as a strong declaration of Sonic Youth’s core aesthetic – pretty impressive considering its members’ freaky proclivities. Hank Shteamer Available at www.7digital.com.