Song Of The Day 10/30/2015: Scott Walker – “The Escape”

Halloween Week – The legend’s been retold thousandfold, but here’s the story for all of you who were referred over here by US Weekly. Scott Walker achieved massive pop fame in the United Kingdom in the 1960’s as one of the Walker Brothers, expatriates from the USA whose adoration in the mother country approached that of the Beatles for a time. Scott Walker went solo and moved away from the romantic pop the Brothers did, taking a turn towards the chanson style of Jacques Brel at first, then progressively moving further away from most rational ideas of “popular” music. After making the 1984 album Climate of Hunter Walker disappeared for eleven years. When he came back, age 52, it was with an album called Tilt. It was the near polar opposite of pop music: dissonant, abstruse, lyrically emblematic and disjointed, challenging at nearly every turn. “Tilt is not an easy album to love; it’s not even that easy to listen to,” said All-Music Guide.

Walker went away for eleven years again and re-emerged with The Drift in 2006. Many superlatives can be hung on this album. I think it’s one of the greatest-engineered albums of all time, partially captured in the film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, which in turn is one of the greatest music documentaries of all time. There was no better album released in the year 2006 than The Drift. But it, too, was an exceptionally imposing listening experience.

There’s not one major or minor chord on the whole album – it’s basically one long diminished chord, which keeps the listener in tension throughout. One song, inspired by the public hanging of Benito Mussolini and his mistress, featured the sound of someone punching a side of beef. Another song was inspired by 9/11 and Elvis Presley’s stillborn brother. Basically put, The Drift is an aural, avant-garde horror movie that offers no relaxation at any point in its nearly 70-minute running time. We’re talking bleak. It made a list of 2006’s top ten death metal albums, which I unfortunately can’t locate. It even freaked out some commenters on an archived Ultimate Metal message board related to black metal band Opeth:

  • “Definitely one of the darkest albums I’ve ever heard; absolutely devastating.”

  • “Great album. Scared the living shit out of me when I first heard it, but I loved every fucking second of it.”

  • “THE FUCKING SCARIEST ALBUM I HERD and yeah that donkey or horse noise that you hear that it sounds like its dying is fucking creepy.”

Here’s “The Escape,” which at 5:19 is the third-shortest song on The Drift. It’s the most accessible thing on the whole album, and contains its most hair-raising moment of shock at the end. What’s it about? Well, partially, the rivalry between Warner Brothers and Disney animators in the mid-20th century, of course.

Just sit back, put on the headphones, and wait for the song’s final minute to screw you up for life. This might be even scarier than the governor of America's Dairyland, though with less damaging real-life repercussions.

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