Having spent the last few posts discussing and praising ways-of-old in the music industry, I would hate to give the impression that there is little to be excited about in 2011, as this would clearly be some dirty propaganda in my campaign to get everyone to revert the world to 1968 (and quite frankly, it just isn’t true).
There is an incredible amount of exciting and brilliant music around today, and one of the brightest, shiniest and most glittering stars – it has to be said – is Mr Patrick Wolf. Despite ten years having passed since his first album was released, the public – whose affections for the star seem to ebb and flow depending on the weather – appear to have half-heartedly climbed back on board for his latest album release; ‘Lupercalia’. It says a lot of Patrick Wolf that he can credibly be considered reminiscent of Bowie in various ways; including a penchant for avant-garde fashion endeavours, a sexual ambiguity that has kept people guessing and a voracious desire to repeatedly transform and redevelop a new sound for each new music offering – all the while maintaining something indefinable which renders them instantly recognisable. Perhaps their most striking resemblance however, is their possession of an unfathomable and almost otherworldly amount of talent, one which they almost seem to be channelling from galaxies invisible to us mere mortals.
From the cleanly tailored dove-white outfit on the album sleeve to the opening majors of the first track; ‘The City’, it is irrefutably apparent that this album is going to be a far cry from Wolf’s sinister and brooding 2009 offering – ‘The Bachelor’. An album full of songs laced with dark eccentricity, intricate ideas and observations of a world in turmoil; coated in a rich layer of organ, violin and any number of instruments that Wolf is able to turn his hand to. As such, it is hard to believe that ‘The Bachelor’ and ‘Lupercalia’ were ever intended to be a double album, unless released under a concept of polar opposites.
With each album that Wolf releases, it is easy to fall into the trap of believing that this will surely be the one that finally elevates him into the musical lap of the gods - rightfully claiming a place which has been reserved for years. However, while 'Lupercalia' may have shown promising signs of such a feat, it seems again to have mainly fallen on the ears of his loyal fan base, never quite making the leap to arena fodder, but ensuring packed theatres and small venues up and down the country whenever he honours them with his presence. While it is a crying shame that such a gifted and charismatic performer does not get to tread the boards of larger venues, it also makes him the nation’s best kept secret, providing his fans with an intimacy and relationship that serves Wolf very well.
With ‘Lupercalia’, we find Patrick Wolf back to his optimistic best, and upon listening to this album it is impossible not to rejoice in the happiness that he has clearly found in his own life over the past few years. Full of hearty defiance that love shall survive and conquer all, it would be hard to find a more positive and content set of lyrics, and indeed a more positive or content man; as one discovers when watching any performance on his accompanying tour. Bounding around a stage laden with harps and all manner of string instruments like a magical pixie, singing to raise the roof whilst parading the biggest and most genuine of smiles throughout the entire show, there is no doubt that this is a man with something to smile about.
Perhaps the most notable achievement of Patrick Wolf on this album, is his absolute triumph in writing the most optimistic and inspirational break-up song in the history of music. ‘Time Of My Life’ is incredible, and the positive spin which he places upon what is potentially one of the most depressing and difficult occurrences - the end of a relationship – is inspiring;
From the east to the south
I tongue the roof of my mouth
To new days of doubt without you
First gear, I face the trouble ahead
Final word has been said
Long distance spread between us
I tell myself to
Hold on, won’t be long
Till I grow through this struggle
Time to wake up, find my soul
Happy without you
We go on
Heart beats strong
As we divide
Our love goodbye
Thanks for, the time
Time of my life
This is undoubtedly a song that each and everyone should hold fast to in their arsenal of motivational and invigorating music for when things get tough, as before you know it, ‘Time Of My Life’ will have you, not just back on your feet, but dancing in the ambience of it’s infectious optimism.
The rest of the album carries on in much of the same vain, and even when Wolf threatens to show signs of a bleaker sound, such as the beginning of ‘Together’ or in ‘The Days’, it does not last long before we’re returned to the defiant, shouting-my-love-from-the-rooftops sounds of ‘Lupercalia’. Uplifting strings, thumping drums and delicate piano often revealing the warm sentiments, even in songs which could be considered more subdued.
While an album of brilliance certainly, I cannot pass without questioning whether forty-one minutes and three seconds of uplifting electro-pop provides the listener with enough of a well-rounded sensory experience. The consistency in emotion may be admirable, however what Wolf has failed to do here unlike his most comparable album to date – 2007’s ‘The Magic Position’ – is touch on the dizzying heights of euphoric contentment as well as the inevitable accompanying lows. This is perhaps why, despite the absolute joy that can be derived from witnessing Patrick Wolf as a beautifully at ease human being who has found happiness and inner peace in all that surrounds him, even as a true fan you find yourself thinking that all we need now is a break up album to get him back to his gutsy best (closely followed by a return to happiness, of course.)
Here is ‘Time Of My Life’ :
Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
2011 Mercury Records