Robert Wyatt
Rock Bottom


5.0
classic

Review

by vanderb0b USER (63 Reviews)
December 24th, 2010 | 56 replies


Release Date: 1974 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Partly fish, partly porpoise, partly baby sperm whale, Am I yours? Are you mine to play with?

The upper half of the cover to Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom shows a deceptively simple scene: three girls, one holding four small balloons in her hand, play around on the shore of an ocean. Behind them, two gulls glide over the waves, and a steamboat sails towards a distant lighthouse, leaving a ripple of water behind. A small sand castle stands by the girls, caressed by waves. And yet, below this peaceful, mundane scene lies a hidden world, filled with mystery and awe: giant jellyfish swim amongst contorted seaweeds and barnacles, mountains rise, twisting out of the ocean floor, endless canyons fall, and exotic plants of every sort grow in the safety of salty sea water. The album itself feels very much like that.

Rock Bottom begins in a relatively straightforward manner with Sea Song and Last Straw. Both of these densely atmospheric songs feature Wyatt’s airy voice singing pleasant, peaceful melodies above a jazzy backdrop of pianos, synths, and acoustic basses. But after the last note of Last Straw fades away and the trumpets of Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road enter, playing a dramatic fanfare, the album evolves into a complex, unorthodox work.

Dissonant horns, Alice In Wonderland-esque lyrics, percussive instruments of all sorts, ranging from militaristic snares to tribal bongos, and ever-present jazzy baselines all converge together and form a surreal, at times disquieting, soundscape. The melancholy vocal melodies are still there, but, with the addition of the frequently-schizophrenic instrumentation, they are tinged with a touch of paranoia and instability. The latter is reinforced by decidedly abstract lyrics, which range from a recitation of a nonsensical poem about the life of a highwayman to whispers of “Not nit not nit no not, nit nit folly bololey, Alifi my larder.”

The unorthodox lyrics, instruments, and melodies all combine to create an atmosphere that is as enticing as it is disturbing. The whole album is melancholic, brooding, and a bit paranoid, but it has an indescribable, quirky quality that makes everything oddly soothing. From Alfib’s sunny bass solo to the icy Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road, the album never feels overbearing, even when all of the instruments play in full force.

Rock Bottom invites listeners to dive into a hidden world, where conventional rules are forgotten and imagination becomes reality, where fear and beauty are one. Who knows, maybe you’ll never want to leave - I sure as hell don’t...



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user ratings (112)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
vanderb0b
December 24th 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Happy holidays, Sputnik! I've been wanting to review this for ages, but never knew how to approach it. This morning, looking at the cover, I got an idea, and the review kind of grew from there...

pizzamachine
December 24th 2010


12571 Comments


Merry Christmas! Great review, I like under-watery music so I'll look this up.

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2010


6098 Comments


Merry Christmas everybody!

good review vanderb0b, have a pos

Digging: The Sabbathian - Ritual Rites

Zettel
December 24th 2010


597 Comments


Good job, Vander. How about reviewing something more recent for a change? I realize you might want to cover untouched ground on Sputnik, but it would be nice to see your take on newer stuff.

Happy Holidays.

vanderb0b
December 24th 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, everyone!

How about reviewing something more recent for a change?

Sure, I've got just the thing. I'll have the review up tomorrow.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2010


7271 Comments


Excellent review Vanderb0b - best I've seen all day. The opening paragraph is particularly good; have a pos.

How did the piano recital go by the way? (have you had it yet?)

Digging: U2 - Songs of Innocence

SowingSeason
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2010


15980 Comments


review is very good. the summary pretty much forced me to read on...

Digging: Maybeshewill - Fair Youth

vanderb0b
December 24th 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thank you!

How did the piano recital go by the way? (have you had it yet?)

It went really well (even better than I had hoped), thanks for asking. Don't remember if I posted this, but here's the piece that I played: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbma0O7Crc8
the summary pretty much forced me to read on...

Summary is a line from 'Sea Song,' that song has some of my favorite lyrics.

Irving
Staff Reviewer
December 24th 2010


7271 Comments


I just listened to the piece; I know nuts about playing the piano, but the song sounds very complicated and difficult. Is there no end to your talents, vanderb0b?

@ Sowing:

Imma lookin at you from my window.

vanderb0b
December 24th 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks, man. The piece is pretty complex, but my ability to play it is a bit less impressive once you consider that it took me almost half a year to learn it.

TheSpirit
December 25th 2010


17826 Comments


Great review man you've become a really talented writer

Digging: Emarosa - Versus

vanderb0b
December 25th 2010


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks a bunch, Spirit!

Jethro42
January 9th 2011


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Damn I've missed that one! Very good write up Vander, buddy. Sea Song is a great song, really. Seeing your rating, I need to relisten to the whole thing more carefully. I could easily see you digging both Peter Hammill and Van Der Graaf Generator. Annnd Soft Machine indeed. Keep the good work up, bud.


vanderb0b
January 10th 2011


3473 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thaks! I already know Van Der Graaf (they're pretty awesome), but I'll check out Hammill. And I could definitely see myself liking Soft Machine - after all, Wyatt was their drummer.

Jethro42
January 10th 2011


12438 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

About Hammill, start with both The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage and In Camera. Please, try these 3 songs:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXEc7bLmhVg&playnext=1&list=PL4D331DF0F2A89E6C&index=13
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqdABG4w60c&playnext=1&list=PL4D331DF0F2A89E6C&index=14
annnd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3UTpUUS2pmU
annnnd
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEsUr6kgJJw

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
April 8th 2011


15035 Comments


little red riding hood is awesome

Tchitchi
August 29th 2011


2 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best album I've heard in my life.

Olson
August 29th 2011


93 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I thought noone else cared about this album haha, (sehguh here)

BiOZed
September 27th 2011


10 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

This is pure genius.

Funeralopolis
February 29th 2012


11342 Comments


This album is amazing and needs more attention. Progs real hard.

Digging: No Joy - Wait to Pleasure



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