Wednesday, March 18, 2009
A Post-Mortem on Patrick Wolf's Dead Meat: Music Video For Vulture
I happened to be strolling through MySpace rounds today and ended up on Patrick Wolf's MySpace. The latest profile photo was Wolf in what appears to be S&M gear, and his forthcoming single, Vulture, the first to be released from his upcoming album, was on the player. Okay, I admit I don't have time to keep tabs on every musician in a consistent fashion, so I didn't realize until today that Wolf's forthcoming album, Battle, is now split into two companion discs called The Bachelor and The Conqueror, respectively, with the former releasing this June and the latter dropping next year. I should probably keep up with these things since I've become an investor in the album (Wolf's team have found a way for non-UK residents to invest via Tribe Wolf InterNational [TWIN] - see here for details).
The S&M gear in the photograph was soon made clear to me as I read one of the blog posts, which read:
The video for Patrick Wolf’s new single ‘Vulture’ will be shown as a late night exclusive on MySpace UK this Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th March, 9pm-4am.
Deemed too provocative for even late night TV, MySpace are promoting the video as an exclusive post watershed in the late night hours, due to its graphic content.
Filmed in black & white, photographic style, it shows an enraptured, semi naked Patrick writhing in a full S&M, bondage outfit. The controversial scenes are intercut with those of Patrick as the leather clad ‘Vulture’ and as an unmasked icon. Inspired by experiences Patrick gained and suffered on the American leg of the 2007 'Magic Position' tour, the video perfectly depicts these experiences, which Patrick describes as ‘getting involved in some dodgy satanic sex games and exploring the many dark sides of Los Angeles.’
I duly waited until the time came to watch it, and I've embedded it above. I'm sure CTRR readers are mature enough to handle it at any time of the day. Especially since I find absolutely nothing shocking about it. This either says that I'm hugely desensitized to bondage gear and/or sexual fetishes, which may very well be true. Or this says that the hype building up the video was merely hype and a brilliant PR tactic to get people to watch it. After all, how can watershed time restrictions work online? This is not to say that the video wasn't creatively conceived and beautifully shot - the black and white photography and dramatic lighting produce a video worthy of any of Wolf's best. Wolf, who directed the video himself, has managed to incorporate an old-time glamour and German Expressionist style that is highly watchable. It's just no more shocking than the uncensored Girls on Film video from Duran Duran or Richey Edwards and Nicky Wire rolling all over each other while wearing g-strings in the video for Love's Sweet Exile.
The single itself points to yet another direction for Wolf, especially in light of the cheerful, gypsy energy of his last album, but it still makes sense within the context of his entire body of work. There were songs on his debut Lycanthropy that were much more graphic than Vulture and its connotations, and several of them employed esoteric noise and electronic elements to provide a shadowy side to the songs' narratives; The Childcatcher still gives me chills. And even his sophomore album, Wind in the Wires, had Tristan, a stomping electro beast that remains one of my favourites in the repertoire.
Wolf's strengths have always been connected to his ability to tell fantastic stories through eclectic sounds and his ever-evolving image. As I stated before, Wolf manages to balance between a fairytale-like innocence and a dangerous eroticism; he is a gambolling sprite one moment and a violent satyr the next. Perhaps the most startling thing about Vulture is how it wrenches us away from the mythical, escapist worlds that Wolf has built over the past few years and plunges us into a gritty reality, which, while no more disturbing than some of Wolf's fantasy scenarios, can be initially unsettling. Unlike previous compositions, Vulture is unrelenting in its modernity - there are no pastoral movements, gypsy reels or folk elements. It is all drum machines, squeals and electronic beeps and blips, but at the same time, Wolf's distinctive voice adds a sense of magic and mystery, and the brilliant vulture imagery carries this story and the music video. If anything, there's less darkness here than a camp sensibility - Wolf plays the part to the hilt in the video.
No matter which direction Patrick Wolf chooses to head in, you can rest assured it will be fresh and uncompromising. No matter the role, Wolf is his own master.
Vulture is released as a download and on 7" vinyl on April 20.
The Childcatcher - Patrick Wolf
The Tower - Patrick Wolf