IoS album review: Scott Walker, Bish Bosch (4AD)

The imperative to make it easy on yourself is one which Walker shows no signs of obeying. Bish Bosch, the latest in a series of challenging and experimental works from the former 1960s balladeer, throws the listener right in at the deep end with "See You Don't Bump His Head", on which, over a low but insistent digital beat, Walker intones lines such as "While plucking feathers from a swan song, shit might pretzel Christ's intestines". The sun, very clearly, ain't gonna shine any more.

Bish Bosch is a psycho-opera whose starting points range from Roman jesters to Ceausescu. The word "cinematic" is rock-crit shorthand for anything with a modicum of grandeur, but here it's literal: Walker's sonic palette doesn't just involve strings, guitars and incongruous bursts of percussion, but actual Foley horror-movie effects and real-world sounds.

And, of course, his own rich, keening voice. Lyrically it's of a piece with his cover of Brel's torrid "Next", and often so transgressive it makes Nick Cave sound like Noah & The Whale. Walker is almost unique among his generation in continuing to provide mind-food instead of cosy nostalgia. If you go into Bish Bosch half-wishing he'd belt out a ballad, you leave it with absolutely no regrets.

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