Scott Walker 30 Century Man

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Click for availability and more information 30 Century Man, by Scott Walker

One of the most underrated and little-known singer/composers around, Scott Walker has for over four decades delivered powerful, personal albums whose songs stick in the listener's subconscious long after being played. Born Noel Scott Engel in 1943, he took the stage name Scott Walker while performing with the American pop group The Walker Brothers (who weren't really related), having a string of hits, including "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore", in the US, and, especially in the UK where they were more popular, during 1964-67. After the group's breakup, Walker released a series of solo albums between 1967-69 which reflected a new found maturity, as well as the influences of such European composers as Jacques Brel (whose songs Walker covered), in lyrics and production. But the subject matter of his compositions put off fans, resulting in poor album sales. This commercial setback resulted in Walker spending the rest of the 70s recording gloppy albums of pop standards, half-heartedly reuniting with the Walker Brothers, and apparently destined to sink in "has-been" obscurity. End of story, right? Well, Stephen Kijak's Scott Walker 30 Century Man , a 2006 British documentary belatedly released in US theatres last fall and now available on DVD, is not only a reaffirmation of Scott Walker's musical legacy, but it's also, as several writers have pointed out, a powerful portrait of an artist creating music that aspires to be something more than disposable pop. Kijak notes how, during the abortive 70s Walker Brothers' reunion recordings and tour, Walker regained his desire to compose and perform challenging musical works that practically dared the average listener to be stirred and/or angered. The director, using archival footage and new interviews, notes the progression of Walker's rather sparse solo work (one album a decade since 1984's Climate of Hunter!) in the past two decades and his influence on fellow performers and musicians. As a bonus, Kijak also gets the publicity-shy Walker to sit down on camera and discuss his creative process (shown vividly in the studio footage of the making of the powerful 2006 album The Drift), along the way getting Walker to open up about his past works. (Interestingly, Walker lets slip that once he's finished recording an album, he never wants to hear it again. Hence one explanation for his not touring.) But as the various musicians in the film (including the likes of David Bowie, who co-produced the film; Jarvis Cocker, Alison Goldfrapp, Johnny Marr, the members of Radiohead, and, of all people, Sting) point out in an extended sequence, Walker's music is made to be listened to, not (as writer Tim Lucas noted on his blog) played in the background on loud radios while driving your car. Walker's music is an expression of the artist opening up his soul and laying himself bare to the audience. It isn't supposed to be incidental music played as if it was a signature theme song out of the movies but a legitimately artistic and intimate work. That's something to think about in this age of instantly disposable pop icons and trends. Scott Walker 30 Century Man is a successful artistic appreciation and validation of an artist long ignored by the mainstream public who still managed to keep his musical integrity. As Brian Eno noted in the film while listening to one of Walker's compositions, "it's humiliating...we (musicians) still haven't moved past this" in terms of musical innovation and maturity. Too true.
-Ed

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This page contains a single entry published on July 23, 2009 5:43 PM.

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