A Monochrome Dance: Scott Walker Gets Weirdly Funky In 'Epizootics!'

Nov 8, 2012
Originally published on November 8, 2012 12:36 pm

Scott Walker may conjure the sublime sounds of our unknown nightmares, but the opening brass blat on "Epizootics!" sure is... funny. That's the tubax, an enormous tuba/saxophone hybrid that, as Walker explains, gets "below the bass, very very deep." The nearly 10-minute track provides the abstractly funky centerpiece of Bish Bosch, Walker's first record in six years, and here gets a beautifully rendered monochrome treatment from director Oliver Groulx, with slow- and stop-motion luau and swing dancers book-ending a Dorothy-steps-into-Technicolor-Oz dream starring a daddy long legs dancing across a naked torso.

It's not like Walker to look back, at least when it comes to his own work. (Walker once famously told an A&R man, "When I make a record and I've finished, I don't really have any intention of listening to it again.") But I can't shake the feeling of "Epizootics!" as a winking nod to an older song of his, "Fat Mama Kick." The latter is a highlight of 1978's Nite Lights from a briefly reunited Walker Brothers, and was the first signal that the singer had something more sinister up his sleeve. In both, the slinky tempo is driven by a bluesy sax line — in the case of "Fat Mama Kick," a synth sax — but "Epizootics!" is far more primal and even industrial in its minimal but pounding rhythm. With cascading trumpets, slide guitar and a curve-ball ukulele ending, Walker has finally made the unsettlingly fun dance-music video we had no idea we were waiting for.

Bish Bosch comes out Dec. 4 on 4AD.

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