Scott Walker & Sunn 0))) – Soused

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Review by Christopher Hollow.

You either love Scott Walker or you don’t, but each release certainly makes you question the relationship.

The mere idea of a pairing between 60s pop-star turned meat-beating mad maverick Scott Walker and experimental metal duo Sunn O))) will either excite or repel. Five songs over fifty minutes with Walker’s epic vocal tones and Sunn O)))’s doomy soundscapes, you know it’s not going to be an easy listen.

And this is what you have to admire about Scott Walker. He’s not the type of artist who’s going to team up with Rick Rubin and produce a record that takes its cues from 1968’s Scott 2 – despite knowing there’s still a big audience of Scott-watchers who would lose their shit over such a concept.

No, Walker is the contrarian type, keen to follow his own internal logic without much concern for his audience. So just putting Soused on is a heavy undertaking. But, album opener – ‘Brando’ – is a surprisingly accessible listen … for a song about masochistic longing.

Walker takes his inspiration from the movies of Marlon Brando and the motif of beatings he endures. In The Appaloosa, Brando cops a pasting from actor John Saxon. In One-Eyed Jacks he’s tied to a post and bullwhipped by Karl Malden. In both The Wild One and The Chase he gets beaten to a pulp by local vigilantes. In Reflections in a Golden Eye, Elizabeth Taylor goes at his face with a riding crop.

A beating would do me good.

I took it from Saxon.

I took it from Dad.

From Fat Johnny Friendly.

From 3 vigilantes.

I took it for Wild One

And then for my sin.

I took it from Lizbeth again and again. 

It’s wonderful poetry and, indeed, all five songs work as evocative verse on the page.

‘Herod 2014’ takes its inspiration from The Bible story of the King of Judea and his Massacre of the Innocents campaign [with a nod to The Sound of Music’s ‘My Favourite Things’].

She’s hidden her babies away.

Their soft, gummy smiles won’t be gilding the menu.

The deer fly, the sand fly, the tsetse can’t find them.

The goon from the Stasi is left far behind them.

No ‘Raindrops on roses’.

‘Whiskers on kittens’.

They refuse to be blinded by Rubens or Poussin.

‘Bull’ sees Walker testing his Latin and our patience while ‘Fetish’ is the album at its most disorientating and dynamic.

The closer, ‘Lullaby’, is a version of a song Walker wrote in 1999 for German singer Ute Lemper, which originally appeared on her Punishing Kiss album as a Japanese edition bonus track. It deals with euthanasia and it’s interesting how Scott pairs a lyric like “The most intimate personal choices and requests central to your personal dignity will be sung” with Ophelia’s cry of madness from Hamlet, “Hey nonny nonny”. 

This new version of ‘Lullaby’ proves how much Scott O))) feels like a true collaboration. It sounds totally unlike Lemper’s take, and unlike anything Scott Walker has done before. The same has to be said about Sunn O)))’s output too. They’ve done heavy drones but they’ve never had someone as singular as Scott Walker belting out such balladry.

Brian Wise

Brian Wise was the Editor of Addicted To Noise‘s Australian site from 1997 – 2002. The site won two ONYA Awards as Best Online Music Magazine in 1999 & 2000. He has also been Editor since its reincarnation in 2013. He also presents the weekly music interview program Off The Record on 102.7 Triple R-FM (rrr.org.au) in Melbourne. It is networked to 45+ stations across Australia on the Community Radio Network and is a four-time winner of the Best Music Program Award from the Community Broadcasting Association of Australia. In 2012, it was nominated as a finalist in the Excellence in Music Programming category. Brian was also the Founding Editor & Publisher of Rhythms Magazine and is now its Senior Contributing Editor.

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