Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia (Mercury/Hideout Records)

June 16, 2011 by  

The British indie-eccentric pop-wonder is back with his fifth album release, ‘Lupercalia’, celebrating the joy and tribulations of love and proving that romance is certainly not dead.

Obscurity, extravagant stage shows, and theatrical and lyrical songs has always been Patrick Wolfs’ trademark and peculiar edge, and he has never been afraid to be a little bit over the top. Thankfully, it’s a role that he pulls off naturally, without coming across as either pretentious or snobbish.

The biggest highlight of the album and first single, ‘The City’ is a summery and warm feel-good song, with great hit potential. An uncomplicated and charming pop track with saxophone infused tones and a snazzy 80s vibe.

‘Time of my life’, is light and upbeat with sugary harmonies and nuances, while ‘Together’ is darker and more dramatic.

‘Bermondsey Street’, flirts openly with the musical baroque genre, embracing love and its complexity with a retro and playful touch, in true Wolf-style:

Now you know, love knows no boundaries/Sees beyond sexuality/Holds the sun in the palm of its hand/And laughs down the cynical man’ he cries.

‘Lupercalia’ (named after the festival of love) is more than anything, an album dominated by ballads (Armistice, The Days, The Future, William), some of them more interesting and extrovert than others. Unfortunately, the ballads reflect a half-hearted attempt to create something powerful, soaring and emotional without really succeeding completely. They might be endearing, but they lack a nerve and intensity.

I have always been ambivalent with/towards Wolf’s music. Most of the time I find it fun, melodic and avant-garde, but it can easily border onto uninteresting and pompous, and ‘Lupercalia’ hasn’t made my musical relationship with the artist any clearer.

It’s like that hip, hyped up film you so badly want to dig, namely because it’s cool and original, but doesn’t really ever capture you the way you want it to.

I miss the quirky standouts along the lines of ‘Magic Position’, ‘Accident & Emergency’ and a ‘Boy Like Me’. Maybe I am too hung up in the past. Or maybe I am in need of something more provocative.

Unconvinced or not, Wolf has proved once again that he is a musical expert of mixing sadness and joy, and master the genre of chamber pop better than most new artists in our time – a unique addition to the indie scene.

[rating:3]


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