‘The Bachelor’ is part one of Patrick Wolf’s coming-of-age saga. “I want to grow old disgracefully. I want to become more and more unconventional,” he says, touting the first half of what was originally planned to be a double album, now split in two, the second of which is expected to reach our ears next year.
We’ve found him howling at the moon by a fairytale lighthouse, playing lone ukulele on the rocky shores of Cornwall, and spinning disco balls while writhing around on the floor of the colourful and electric pop underground – the latter of which spiralled him into the mainstream, everywhere from popular music television to some rather questionable guest spots on chat shows we’d rather not mention. Now, though, we can unearth his darker, radically more candid side – a side directly in spite of Wolf’s reluctant success, and a significant leap from the seed of that: 2007’s major-label release ‘The Magic Position’.
The new album takes on a drastic new turn, incorporating Patrick’s signature love for traditional English and Celtic folk music and fusing it with futuristic, slippery and sinister techno-pop, the latter of which boosted to extreme with help from ex-Atari Teenage Riot man Alec Empire. ‘The Bachelor’’s headlining single ‘Vulture’ carries most of the weight of that new sound, but it trickles off into nooks and crannies found all over the album, which, as a whole, is a direct U-turn, delving deep once again into Patrick’s true roots: romantic English folk.
Opening track ‘Kriegspiel’ is almost a warning of what’s to come – lyricless, it is an electric crescendo that bleeds into the heavier couple of tracks on offer – ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Oblivion’, both of which incorporate something that has never really been brought to the forefront of Patrick’s music before: guitars. A familiar aspect the album does include, though, is the collaboration with some (pleasantly) surprising guests – English folk artist Eliza Carthy, and flame-haired British actress Tilda Swinton as “the voice of hope”.
The wild romanticism of the haunting ‘Damaris’, ‘Thickets’, ‘The Sun is Often Out’ and ‘Blackdown’ really raises ‘The Bachelor’ to new, colossal and breathtaking heights. “Desire, desire, deep down inside of me / You are not the maker nor the master of me,” Wolf insists, shrugging off the emotional turmoil of his days as a hedonist, promising us – and, most importantly, himself – that he’s coming back home.
‘The Bachelor’, like so many romantic yarns before it, is epic - and a whispered breath away from sheer perfection.