It’s only Patrick Bloody Wolf!
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I’m a normal Patrick Wolf fan. Not the sort who conducts a séance for Damaris in Brede cemetery, not the sort who goes door-knocking in Southwark, not the sort who mixes sequins into his muesli, not the sort who writes sprawling sycophantic passages about his collar bones in bicentenary art house magazines, but just a normal fan. One who played all of his records to death years ago and is now paying for them in monthly instalments via the Students Loan Company. I’m the only gay media slag in London who hasn’t met Patrick Wolf, although both being very tall we’ve inevitably made eye contact before, once through some trees in Suffolk, once queuing for salt beef bagels on Brick Lane and once across Roisin Murphy’s extraordinary head.
SO. Here are my thoughts on Lupercalia following a third listen:
A strong start to Lupercalia, it’s a romance-drenched melody mapped out across an anxious, anticipatory beat. When Patrick sings “top o’ the morning” I can’t help but think of Des Kay Wicky-Woo in Little Britain. “Top of the morning” also sounds like BUTT magazine’s answer to Heat’s “Torso of the week”. But before we get on our sexed-up horse, “It’s about the keys to my heart you hold” acts as a warning bell …
Just when it’s starting to sound like being forced to watch a loony band in a Baptist church, the Arcade Fire disco ballroom beat swoops in and saves it, sort of.
It reminds me of listening to Lemon Jelly in 2002 on my Discman whilst Mum and Dad argued downstairs.
Good to know Patrick likes the literary image of a swimming pool, essential iconography for any accomplished gay artisan. Reminded of Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian and Kinobe.
Sonic intro a la Kate Bush’s Waking The Witch or Keane’s Bedshaped. A good song that carries forward The Bachelor’s sense of grandeur and ancestry.
Nice metaphor what with like Patrick’s fiancé William and then like Wiliam The Conqueror etc. etc. Meanwhile I might stab myself in the eye with an arrow.
Time of My Life:
A really strong song, although when Patrick sings “Hold on…” it’s impossible not to think of Living On A Prayer. Strings are very effective, like in the centre of Bjork’s 5 Years or at the end of Aeroplane’s cover of Paris. There’s an interesting little bit where the song threatens to Guetta itself up too.
Beginning sounds like Lambchop covering I’m Not Okay by My Chemical Romance. Very naked, stripped back. Ends up loping and waltzing around like it wants to be on Arcade Fire’s Funeral. Patrick’s vocal is magnificent here. It’s so heartfelt I can almost picturing him drunkenly booming it out alone at Central Station’s stark karaoke night. (I’m talking about Central Station off York Way in King’s Cross kids, not the one Gaga sometimes feels like she’s in)
Finally we see how Lupercalia and The Bachelor are two sides of a locket. Patrick nearly achieves his dream here of being as mountainously emotive as Kate Bush. “That night you gave me the kiss of life” carries enough Bushian mileage in it, some of the arrangements are very reminiscent of Mother Stands For Comfort. “Wake me out of that deep sleep darling” is Bjork’s Submarine with the word “darling” thrown in to add Wolfian demure. Not sure about the eastern wailing, sounds like a sound effect off Age of Empires.
After a tense Fischerspooneresque start Together grows into a lovely airy song, but again, it’s like Arcade Fire covering Whitney Houston’s Step By Step. Is it really about being together? The tune conjured an image of people running through Berlin backstreets from the Gestapo.
Really good fun, and you can just imagine how brilliant this is live. Similar to The City, but it has a nice dollop of Dolly Parton cheesiness in which Patrick occasionally lets himself indulge. Cue summery montage of how brilliant Patrick’s life is now that he’s found true love.
Lupercalia is a warm and welcome addition to Patrick Wolf’s repertoire, but if his other albums are bottles of tantalising vintage wines in a cellar, Lupercalia is a bottle of already-opened Gallo in the fridge door. We’ve heard that’s the point here, the album is a warm ascension, a burst of light, a testimony of love and unison. But actually, although lyrically the album is about togetherness, musically the record is much more promiscuous. Time Of My Life, The City and Together are all songs on the run, restless and longing.
Words: Jack Cullen
Photo: Heiko Prigge
Patrick Wolf's album on Amazon