Music

Various Artists: Music Inspired by the Film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

An interesting collection of covers to complement the long-awaited DVD release of the Scott Walker documentary. It's no match for the man's own work, but it's a treat for fans.


Various Artists

Music Inspired by the Film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man

Label: Lakeshore
US Release Date: 2009-05-26
UK Release Date: 2009-05-05
Label website
Amazon
iTunes

I've been very excited about the Scott Walker documentary 30 Century Man ever since it was rumored to be in the works several years ago. Its impending (and long overdue) DVD release is cause for celebration. But what to make of this affiliated record?

First things first: it's not a soundtrack. It's "music inspired by the film". That's different. In this case, what it means is that it's a dozen Scott Walker songs recorded by other folks. But instead of a big-name tribute, it's a low-profile affair; the most famous name here is Laurie Anderson, who at this point may or may not be better known than Walker himself.

I'm tempted to draw an immediate comparison between 30 Century Man and the soundtrack to Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man from a few years back. In both cases, an iconic figure from the '60s (as far as casual listeners are concerned) is treated to a series of hip cover versions in conjunction with a documentary that attempts to get to the heart of their artistry. In Cohen's case, the interpreters were at least somewhat famous, and the covers possessed a unity of sound, having been recorded live in concert with different singers fronting a single band. Fortunately for all of us, the performances were almost uniformly excellent, managing to capture the essence of Cohen's songs while sounding nothing like the original recordings.

The Walker covers on 30 Century Man are also often radical reimaginings of the source material. And the record certainly has a feel, although not as organic as the Cohen soundtrack. 30 Century Man sounds like it's swathed in gauze, and most of it is impossibly slow and quiet. There's a tendency to associate Walker with quiet, drizzly nights and too much wine, and I'll admit to listening to him under those conditions. But it's a little quizzical, if you think about it, because there's so much bombast in his records.

It makes more sense to blast "Montague Terrace (In Blue)" from the car windows than to snuggle under a blanket with it. Dot Allison, though, takes the latter approach, turning the song lush and dreamy. It's not necessarily a better approach, or a worse one, although there's something to be said for the shocking contrasts of Walker's original, with its tip-toeing verses and explosive chorus. Allison's reading is much more even, so it's less dramatic, and in that sense it's emblematic of the less effective performances on 30 Century Man. I'd also throw Sally Norvell's take on "Big Louise" into that category, not because of a stupid lyric change -- the iconic "fire escape in the sky" becomes "fire escape in Times Square" -- but because the simplified arrangement strips the song of its crushing sorrow and makes it merely sad.

Successful or not, you certainly can't accuse most of the performers on 30 Century Man of taking the easy way out. Ulrich Schnauss turns "It's Raining Today" into a pretty electronic number, eliminating all lyrics except for the title phrase, which is sung with an evocative underwater effect. Saint Etienne finds a melody in "Manhattan", from Walker's extremely avant garde Tilt, and wins bonus points for venturing out of the comfort zone of Walker's '60s work, i.e. the period with all the pretty songs. Peter Broderick and Stephanie Dosen strip the country instrumentation from a couple of Scott 4 numbers: Broderick does "Duchess" a cappella, and Dosen turns "Rhymes of Goodbye" into an early-'70s Neil Young piano ballad.

My favorite of these 12 interpretations is the last one, Little Annie & Paul Walfisch's take on "Such a Small Love". What a strange croak Little Annie has, what a rough sound comes out of that sporadically strummed acoustic guitar, and what a coup it was to have a xylophone playing the orchestral lines during the chorus! The vocal, in particular, is far less conventionally beautiful than anything else on 30 Century Man, but it's probably the most captivating. No wonder they stuck this one at the end.

The covers on 30 Century Man probably won't spark a Walker revival, but for fans of his work -- particularly the first four solo albums -- this is the first opportunity we've had to hear other folks tackle these songs. It could've been a longer set, and a more varied one, but as it is it's pretty nice, and a worthwhile complement to the documentary.

6
Music
Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

PopMatters Seeks Music Critics and Essayists

If you're a smart, historically-minded music critic or essayist, let your voice be heard by the quality readership of PopMatters.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Books
Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Books

John Pham's ​J​&K​​ - It's a Matter of Perspective

In J&K, John Pham explores perspectives in the psychological sense. Like Picasso, he views things from more than one angle.

Film
Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Film

The Road to Murder in Love and War: Three Films from Claude Chabrol

The character's in Claude Chabrol's The Third Lover, Line of Demarcation, and The Champagne Murders are obsessively doubled and mirrored, reflecting and refracting their hunger for sex, love, money, and power.

Film

'Memento' Is the Movie of the Attention Economy

We are afraid of time, and so like Leonard in Memento, we kill it, compulsively and indiscriminately.

Film

What Lurks Beneath: 'Jaws' and Political Leadership in the Time of COVID-19

Boris Johnson admires the Mayor in Spielberg's Jaws. Remember him? He was the guy who wouldn't close the beaches -- and sacrifice that revenue source -- during a public crisis.

Recent
Music

JARV IS... - "House Music All Night Long" (Singles Going Steady)

"House Music All Night Long" is a song our inner, self-isolated freaks can jive to. JARV IS... cleverly captures how dazed and confused some of us may feel over the current pandemic, trapped in our homes.

Music

All Kinds of Time: Adam Schlesinger's Pursuit of Pure, Peerless Pop

Adam Schlesinger was a poet laureate of pure pop music. There was never a melody too bright, a lyrical conceit too playfully dumb, or a vibe full of radiation that he would shy away from. His sudden passing from COVID-19 means one of the brightest stars in the power-pop universe has suddenly dimmed.

Music

Folkie Eliza Gilkyson Turns Up the Heat on '2020'

Eliza Gilkyson aims to inspire the troops of resistance on her superb new album, 2020. The ten songs serve as a rallying cry for the long haul.

Music

Human Impact Hit Home with a Seismic First Album From a Veteran Lineup

On their self-titled debut, Human Impact provide a soundtrack for this dislocated moment where both humanity and nature are crying out for relief.

Music

Monophonics Are an Ardent Blast of True Rock 'n' Soul on 'It's Only Us'

The third time's the charm as Bay Area soul sextet Monophonics release their shiniest record yet in It's Only Us.

Film

'Slay the Dragon' Is a Road Map of the GOP's Methods for Dividing and Conquering American Democracy

If a time traveler from the past wanted to learn how to subvert democracy for a few million bucks, gerrymandering documentary Slay the Dragon would be a superb guide.

Music

Bobby Previte / Jamie Saft / Nels Cline: Music from the Early 21st Century

A power-trio of electric guitar, keyboards, and drums takes on the challenge of free improvisation—but using primarily elements of rock and electronica as strongly as the usual creative music or jazz. The result is focused.

Books

Does Inclusivity Mean That Everyone Does the Same Thing?

What is the meaning of diversity in today's world? Russell Jacoby raises and addresses some pertinent questions in his latest work, On Diversity.

Music

The Killers - "Caution" (Singles Going Steady)

The Killers go for the big hooks and singable anthems on "Caution", but opinion is sharply divided about the song's merits amongst our Singles Going Steady panel.

Music

Lilly Hiatt - "Some Kind of Drug" (Singles Going Steady)

Lilly Hiatt sings about a different kind of love on "Some Kind of Drug". Hers is for a city and the impact gentrification has had its soul.

Music

There's Never Enough Time for Folk Music's James Elkington

The sometimes Wilco and Richard Thompson sideman, in-demand producer, and songwriter, James Elkington, muses on why it's taking longer than he expects to achieve more in a week than most of us get done in a lifetime.

Music

Billy Corgan Brainwashed Me: '90s Alternative Rock and the Introspective Abyss

Once in its thrall, these days I find the overriding message of '90s alt-rock especially naïve and even dangerous.

Books

Classic Shōjo Today: Moto Hagio's 'The Poe Clan'

Moto Hagio's The Poe Clan manga series a gender-fluid melodrama marked by deep psychological trauma.

Music

Salsa Band LPT Hints at the Genre's Future

LPT's debut album, Sin Parar, hits all the right notes for a contemporary salsa album.

Music

Jennah Barry Offers Up a Warm, Sublime Collection of Memorable Tunes on 'Holiday'

Canadian indie folkster Jennah Barry returns with her long-awaited sophomore album, Holiday, which takes on a looser, more relaxed approach.

Music

Fotocrime's '80s-Inspired Rock Is Often Half-Baked

Fotocrime's South of Heaven is interesting mostly in that it's one of the most mediocre rock records I've heard in a long time.

Music

Maria McKee Puts Down Her Electric Guitar and Picks up Dante on 'La Vita Nuova'

"Show Me Heaven" was another country. Maria McKee has moved to England, immersed herself in the Classics and turned away from the 21st century.

Books

Phuc Tran's Existential Trip of a Memoir, 'Sigh, Gone'

Phuc Tran's smart, tough memoir, Sigh, Gone, might launch a broken down kid to read 150 great books—for free, at the local library.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews
Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.