All Songs Considered
12:10 pm
Thu November 8, 2012

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

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.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.