Review Summary: Scott Walker begins to explore the darker sound that would manifest in his latter albums, while still remaining faithful to his initial Baroque pop style.Scott 3
introduces a new side of Scott Walker. It's a much more conceptual album. His two previous musical endeavors, Scott 1
and Scott 2
, were merely a collection of songs that explored a variety of concepts and styles. Scott 3
, on the other hand, has a very distinct theme that seems to exude from every song. The music expresses itself with such overwhelming dismalness. Utterly weary and faint in sound, Scott 3
seems to wallow in its own melancholia. Completely infatuated with reminiscing of past regrets and illustrating gloomy scenes in the mind. In other other words, this is a moody album meant to serve as a kind of soundtrack for our less than optimistic moments in life.
Although Scott Walker has often touched on dark lyrical themes in the past, they've often been delivered in an ambiguous fashion. Evasively decorated with poppy musical textures that gave his songs an almost ironic sense of optimism. But here, his darkness is much more lucid, as there are no euphonic melodies to spoil the listener. Scott 3
is our true acquaintance with the cynical and morbid side of Scott Walker's psyche, and quite frankly, he's become almost too
comfortable with this particular aspect of his personality, which will certainly surprise anyone who was hoping to be met with the elegant romantic of the pervious albums. The opening piece, "It's Raining Today", exhibits a rather haunting ambience that lies underneath Scott Walker's soothing baritone voice. There's a typical Baroque arrangement in this song as well, from the gentle guitar playing that carries us along, to the violin and cello melodies of the midsection, but it's the eerie soundscape behind all of the instruments that really distinguishes this particular piece. And as ghastly as it may appear, the sound is very inviting. It's hypnotic, and because its so contrasting to Scott Walker's rather oddly sanguine tone of voice, it makes it an all the more intriguing listen.
"It's Raining Today" is one of the main highlights in Scott 3
, and it also introduces the recurring concept of the album. Most of the songs here, particularly ones like "Rosemary" and "Two Weeks Since You've Gone", have a dreary gloom that coats their music in darkness. Both songs have a rather simple baroque orchestration of dominating bowed string instruments, but it's within their lyrics that their sorrow is expressed. Each song seems to lament over some kind of loss, whether it be a past romance or a sense of innocence and pride, but there is a constant yearning for the past, a simpler time when the world looked much brighter. "Big Louise" is yet another song that falls under this category, but it's a much more eminent one because it portrays some of the characteristics of Scott Walker's subsequent experimental efforts. The song opens with an abrasive drone sequence that sets up a rather ominous atmosphere, but as the other instruments begin to flourish in prominence, the music fluctuates into a more mellifluous style. Its lyrics, on the other hand, exude a much more forlorn attitude. "Big Louise" references a discovery instead of a loss. It's about a promiscuous woman who realizes that her life, now coming down from the intoxicating high of hedonism, is left with nothing more than the bitter aftertaste of shame and regret.
"We Came Through" and "Funeral Tango" are the only two pieces to deviate from the gloomy calm of the other songs, but only in their sound are they different because their lyrics are just as lurid as the rest. We really get to see Scott Walker's whimsical sense of humor in these two pieces as we find him critiquing the political state of the world, as well as reciting one of Jacques Brel's poems of the macabre, all while accompanied by overly blithe melodies. At the time of its release, Scott 3
was met with less enthusiasm than his previous albums. Lacking the romantic atmospheres and extravagant classical arrangements of his first two efforts, Scott 3
can easily be considered a grower. It's a step backwards in appeal, but a big step forward artistically. This is Scott Walker relinquishing practically everything that made him a rising star in the 1960's pop scene, to follow his own creative ambitions as an up-and-coming musician. It's not just admirable to see him exploring new musical approaches, but also a reward for us fans to not hear yet another replica of Scott 1
. Making the gentle and dreary sound of Scott 3
a welcomed breath of fresh air. Its ominous atmosphere and haunting sounds exude a rather spellbinding effect on the listener, alluring us deeper and deeper into a world of inescapable darkness. But there is a mild sense of optimism that glimmers behind all of the sorrow. One of the techniques that recurs throughout the album is the combination of melancholic orchestrations with Scott Walker's usage of a soothing vocal tone, adding a sense of hope to all of this emotional anguish. Scott 3
may not offer the accessibility of its predecessors, but it does prove that Scott Walker can go beyond the capabilities of the average pop artist. As we find him shifting his venturous instincts into different and utterly dashing shapes.