The Bachelor

Infamous for his changing hair colour, bizarre assortment of instruments and extravagantly outlandish fashion sense, Patrick Wolf has made sure that he has never been able to fit into any mould or fall into any distinct category. This is immediately apparent with the way in which he has gone about making The Bachelor, his most recent album, which has been released through his own label, Bloody Chamber Music, and made possible through the hundreds of fans who invested money in the record through the revolutionary Bandstocks scheme. It is also more than evident from his last three albums, which defy and deride a number of previously concrete musical boundaries and expectations (his twisted tale ‘The Childcatcher’ is a prime, and startling, example).

Indeed, Wolf’s debut album, Lycanthropy, was an anthology of dark contemplations shrouded in the gloom and oppression lurking in the shadows of a thousand east London backstreets. Two years later Wind in the Wires, his second record, shared the same sense of mournful desolation, but one cloaked in rugged images of Albion, the crumbling English coastline and the barren moors of Cornwall. Then, in 2007, everything changed direction with The Magic Position, which was an all-singing-all-dancing burst of glitter and sequins, colourful wigs and colourful clothes; an exclamation of love and happiness and much much more. Genre flipping is certainly something that Wolf is not afraid of. Moreover, his collection of light and dark, happy and sad, beautiful and downright disturbing has entranced and enraptured thousands of fans across the country, not to mention the rest of the world. And with the recent release of The Bachelor, he certainly does not disappoint.

The album is in fact the first half of a colossal double album, entitled Battle, which will see its second half, The Conqueror, hopefully released sometime next year. Despite this however, the first half has got more than enough for hungry fans to get their teeth into. From the moment that the record begins – with hyped-up warning sirens accompanied by an infusion of violins – it’s clear that something epic is about to commence. ‘Hard Times’, the first proper song on the album, is a gutsy, all-inspiring poetic rant about the state of the economy, with lyrics so fierce (‘Divided nation, in sedation/ Overload of information/ That we have grown up to ignore’) that they’ll have you banging down the door of your nearest politician, or Icelandic bank, before the day is done. The second song, ‘Oblivion’, has the same level of gusto, intertwined with the same blend of electronica and eerie strings that weave gracefully in and out of the fabric of the whole record.

As the album runs its course it tells a number of different stories, all fantastical but each deeply moving, and everything interspersed with a flourish of various voices and instruments. ‘Count of Casualty’, for example, is a jerky, synthesised number with underlying whispers linking war and contemporary internet culture, whilst ‘Damaris’ is a stunningly tragic tale of death and loneliness, empowered once again by the epic rush of violins, a children’s choir and the captivating tones of Wolf’s own vocals. Towards the end of the album, ‘Blackdown’ and ‘The Sun is Always Out’ provide a respite from the fast-paced, emotionally charged, storm-like quality of the rest of the record with a fluttering piano and beautifully mournful lyrics, before it reaches its climax with ‘Battle’.

In fact, moving from each song to the next is a complete journey in itself; it is an elegant yet temperamental piece of music, imitating Wolf’s flickering moods, feelings and own personal battles throughout the duration of the record. Indeed, as with Wolf’s other albums, The Bachelor takes its listener on an adventure from the very moment that it begins. This time it is an adventure underpinned by the medieval and the sublime; a trip through the back of the dusty wardrobe and into another world, one of magic, legend, darkness and populated by the mythical and mysterious figures of Damaris, Theseus, and of course Patrick Wolf himself.


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