This morning I dropped into my local Tesco to pick up some hummus and a copy of the newspaper. While queuing up, I couldn’t help but notice a selection of floral arrangements that had been laid out for Easter, one of which, priced at a reasonable £5.99, had been given the rather ridiculous name of “Easter Surprise”. Not much of a surprise, considering the bouquet’s contents were fully on display for all to see.
I felt a similar sentiment when approaching “Vulture”, the new single from Patrick Wolf, taken from his forthcoming The Bachelor album. All the hype and suspense surrounding it had taken on a perpetually surprised tone, as if no reviewer could possibly foresee that Wolf’s instrumental virtuosity might lead to a change in sound on this album. Anyone who has been paying attention to his previous releases will know that each album has pursued quite a different musical route, from the melancholy of his early work to the starry-eyed romance of The Magic Position. All this considered, I was fully expectant of quite a shock and, upon listening to “Vulture”, I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
For what it’s worth, I don’t think Wolf could possibly have spent longer than a ten minute coffee break writing the song, but that’s not to detract from the enjoyment of it. “Vulture” is three and a half minutes of gothic, ultra camp electro pop, filled with continually smile-inducing sonic intricacies. Lyrically, Wolf seems to be comparing some kind of haunting journey through a supernatural forest with the equally horror-inducing situation of “losing my head to Hollywood / My liver to London / My youth to Tokyo.” It’s surprisingly celebrity-baiting, but he takes care not to get carried away with the earnest observations, subsequently launching into a series of delightfully theatrical groans. There’s even a hint of The Kills’ “Now Wow”, with Wolf stammering and stuttering his way through the line “d-d-d-d-d-d-dead meat” in much the same way as Alison Mosshart tackled “Drip drip drip drip drip kinda like / Loosened at the end of the night”. The two songs even share a similar sense of instrumental minimalism, though “Vulture” gets considerably more expansive towards the end, with arch organs and glacial synths adding colour to the skittish bass and percussion.
“Vulture” isn’t rocket science. It’s more simplistic even than “The Magic Position”, but I doubt the rest of The Bachelor will be nearly so accessible. For all its obvious electro-pop posturing, it’s hard not to hold a soft spot for it, much like one must eventually placate an eager puppy tugging at your clothes. An entertaining effort, then, which bodes well for the forthcoming album.