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

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

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.