Friday, November 9, 2012

Sinister Hulas, Burning Flowers, Shoes, Dancing, Shoes: Walking You Through Scott Walker's Insane New Video

Posted By on Fri, Nov 9, 2012 at 12:54 PM

Yesterday, legendary decades-spanning pop weirdo Scott Walker released the first full song from his 14th solo record, Bish Bosch, to be released on December 4th. It's his first since 2006's The Drift, which was something of an gothic masterpiece. I've joked in this space previously about the pretentiousness of that record, but I haven't meant that in a totally derogatory way. While I find myself wanting to listen to his older records more often, the ones that temper the high-art with a little bit more pop structure (the 60s records are just chock-full of magnificently orchestrated, utterly heartbreaking pop songs, actually), there's a singular oddness and commitment to vision on it that's totally captivating. When he promised, repeatedly, to "punch a donkey in the streets of Galway," you believed he was GOING TO PUNCH THAT DONKEY.

His new piece, "Epizootics!", was debuted via a 10-minute short film that is flat out weird as fuck. At a time when David Lynch is tossed around a little too casually as a reference point, Walker, along with director Olivier Groulx have made a piece of art that actually gets real close to the smiling, surreal malevolence of Lynch's best work. We are going to have to go through it, at length.

C'mon, don't be scared. (Be a little scared)

:07 - We fade up from darkness on a lonely hula girl, waving her arms in slow-motion, captured in gorgeous black and white. Over a beat that I can initially describe as grubby and rad, bent notes do have a very faint luau vibe.

:50 - In addition to Lynch, the vivid slow motion and uneasy surrealism here also recall the opening sequence of Lars von Trier's excellent end of the world flick, Melancholia. While the world probably won't actually end at the end of this year, context clues have not totally ruled it out. Bish Bosch might be on the verge of making timely apocalyptic sense.

1:05 - Scott comes in to sing. As a huge fan, I always feel like maybe I can anticipate what going to traipse, regally, out of his mouth, but nothing can really ever prepare you. "Mama Maiva was frightened by Hawaiians." No one else can, or should, write lyrics like Scott Walker. (But he is a treasure.)

1:17 - AHHHHH. The hulu girl reveals a demonic, black-toothed grill. Though the lyric clearly dictated the image, I feel like the director might relate to Mama Maiva's phobia a little too much.

1:20 - OK, this lyrical snippet is grotesque, but great..."When too much bone structure goes missing..." You're fucked. That's what.

1:31 - Flower pedals fall softly on white shoes. As they do.

1:53 - One of the videos most literal lyric to image moments, the face of our hulu girl does a slow dissolve into churning maggots on a flower as Scott sings, " a face being eaten by a jungle."

1:55 - "Haunted jacuzzis churn." As they do.

2:26 - Gorgeous shots of high-impact swing dancing. While the Lynch vibe permeates everything, this recalls the first minutes of Mulholland Drive, specifically. As those of us who remember the 90s clearly can attest, swing dancing can be both majestic and disturbing.

2:36 - Wait. Was that a subliminal cut-in of a pig? Is that the pig that Scott Walker just sang wanted revenge??? Getting nervous.

2:57 - As a lady tennis player sloooowly floats over the center court net towards the ground, we hear the distorted horns again. They are the horns of athletic spookiness.

3:14 - Line that I am most likely mishearing, that one might hear, correctly, in an Azealia Banks song: "Just might bust yer cunk."


4:27 - Suddenly, like finding ourselves in the land of Oz, we have full color! It's on a shot of a spooky murder field, yes, but it's still a little bit wondrous.

5:15 - OK, at this point you might want to mentally prepare yourself against the animal instinct to violently slap your computer screen. Ready?

5:16 - AHHHHHHHH, there's a spider on your belly button. Kill it! [Slap] [Crash]

6:10 - Those ominous white shoes fill with ever more pedals. It's easy to zone out on the images here, occasionally losing track of Walker's lyric. But he definitely just sang, "[something, something] decapitation."

6:46 - The horns of athletic spookiness return, as a sleepy blond stands amid that recurring shower of flower pedals. Have those been her white shoes all along? Wait, is she the shoes?

7:06 - The devil's hulu girl returns. Guys, maybe I'm starting to be a little bit afraid of Hawaiians.

7:30 - And now, again, the dancers. They are still the only figures in the video allowed to ever move at regular speed, but are cursed to be stuck in a neverending loop of existential dread. So no one should be TOO jealous.

Though the flowing, avant grade structure of the arrangements have made it hard to pinpoint before now, the closest thing the song's got to chorus is revealed. It's a refrain that ends with: "Shoving like sluggers/ Touching like muggers/ Pushing each other around." Which reminds me of an old Elton John song, weirdly, except that I don't think Sir Elton ever had this variety of the blues, and wouldn't be able to even guess at what to even call them.

8:07 - The dancers disappear into a wisp of smoke, as the music calms abruptly and Walker slows down even further to offer an apology. "Whoops, pardon the uproar, let's just shift you over here." As grave as he's gotten, the old bird does have a sly sense of humor pumping in there somewhere.

8:29 - A black flower catches flame and slowly melts. That is a beautiful, disturbing image. Seriously, just gorgeous.

9:19 - A serene and lovely ukulele strums as a pretty girl looks on, shocked, but not so sad and sleepy. This may signify a welcome triumph over the persistent fear of Hawaiians.

9:27 - Hold up, worms are raining from the sky now instead of pedals. This is not serene and lovely anymore. (I got a little carried away.)

9:35 - I'm about 100% sure that Thom Yorke has had this dream before.

9:49 - Credits. Whoa. Take a slow, creepy, lovingly shot bow, everyone involved. Shoes, stand by for more pedals. All the pedals. You earned them.

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