Sunday, September 9, 2012


This 1970 release by a twenty seven year old Scott Walker is sometimes known as SCOTT 5,  as it followed a numbered string of artistically and commercially successful (SCOTT 4 was the former,  but not the latter) albums released after the initial demise of the Walker Brothers.  It is often held in low regard mainly because of the MOR covers that make up its second side and nearly derail the Walker (and Ady Semel,  his manager at that time) originals that precede them. What Semel had to do with the songwriting is a mystery to me and others,  but royalties certainly fit into the scheme here.  And one original,  "Long About Now" is sung,  albeit beautifully by Esther Ofarim,  another of Semel's clients. More question marks.  It could have easily been sung by Scott himself,  a singer who exhibits a kind of neutral gender bias in his approach to singing,  while at the same time projecting a gentle male eroticism (auto-eroticism in "Time Operator",  included here).  All of which makes his version of MOR more European and dangerous (try standing in the middle of the road in any European capital!) than anything else.  There are missteps here, like the near racism in "Rueben James" coupled with its hokey American idiomatic instrumentation.  I'm not a big fan of the barber shop back up singers and comedic spy narrative of "Jean The Machine" either.  The songs that do work do so without a trace of MOR's cheap  sentiment,  compromise,  or artist in absentia.  So much of Scott's favorite subtext is here:  time and its loss.  That's why I have little patience with the idea that the originals and their performance are apathetically phoned in by an alcohol-dimmed Scott.  I particularly like the title track with its suggestions of "otherness" ("Here on the outskirts of life",  "Still alive with my subhuman sound to the ground") and salvation through song.  The previously mentioned "Time Operator" is a portrait of a man so desperately alone that he chats up a recorded voice and insists that his curtains' dust indicate a viable life force.  "Little Things (That Keep Us Together)"  presents a list of banal and extreme existential moments that suggest the inner wars we all fight (keep in mind that this is during the Vietnam War).  The final original here is the beautifully rendered,  and highly delusional "The War is Over",  which now seems like something of a requiem for Scott the songwriter, and the beginning of contractual obligations that brought few manifestations of Scott's artistic sensibility until the second and final Walker Brothers reunion birthed NIGHT FLIGHTS in 1978.

The above design is not the original TIL THE BAND COMES IN  cover,  but may be from a single released somewhere in the word.  I must admit that I prefer the drastically cropped image of Scott presented here,  as it certainly suggests something of his fragmentation at this time (with a smile in his eye).

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