Dusted Reviews

Patrick Wolf - Lycanthropy

today features
reviews charts
labels writers
info donate

Search by Artist

Sign up here to receive weekly updates from Dusted

email address

Recent Reviews

Dusted Reviews

Artist: Patrick Wolf

Album: Lycanthropy

Label: Tomlab

Review date: May. 3, 2004

This is possibly the worst album of the year. Strong words as May dawns, but it’s difficult to imagine an album so grotesquely misconceived as Patrick Wolf’s Lycanthropy, which ham-fistedly blends camp Victorian imagery with roots-music instrumentation and a heavy dose of laptop beat programming. Some have welcomed the album as a breath of fresh air, a brave and risky attempt to further the parameters of pop music. Wolf himself clearly intends this, styling himself as a kind of post-millennial avant-garde folk poet, naïf but passionate, carving out a new musical voice.

Wolf was perceived as something of a musical prodigy as a teen (he’s now 20), which has earned him a good deal of musical equipment from his record company patrons and a healthy dose of anticipation for his debut. This makes for an interesting back-story, along with Wolf’s life in the bohemian streets of Paris and his fond love of folk music, but the result is an album that strives for a kind of uncanny, mad eclecticism, but instead feels like much, much less than the sum of its parts. Lycanthropy is incredibly labored, cute to the point of nausea, and precious when it seems to yearn for reckless abandon.

And yet, in our lost, surface-fascinated age, Wolf’s preening, adolescent attempts at creating a mythology (he’s a werewolf by night, apparently) have won over quite a few admirers. As a programmer, Wolf does possess some skills, artfully blending organic instrumentation with glitchy, manic beats. His voice, although somewhat limited, is not unpleasant, despite Wolf’s penchant for melodramatic inflections and breathy gasps. The problem – an insurmountable one – is that the record doesn’t begin to pull together the disparate elements that Wolf has thrown together, often resulting in laugh-out-loud catastrophes. The track to play at parties if you want to get a laugh is “The Childcatcher,” a loping dirge that tells of molestation from the point of view of a child:

“I was still a child when you caught me and tied me to your bed / You gave me shoes and pretty clothes / And I gave you what I had between my legs / … ‘Just a rite of passage,’ you held me down and said / ‘I’m gonna be your right of passage / So boy, you better spread, spread ’em.’”

This is all told with a squealing, childlike wail, and the effect is not unlike listening to Tiny Tim backed by Kid606. It’s arresting, certainly, but the song aims to explore incredibly complex emotions, involving shame, guilt, eroticism, and a child’s understanding of sex, all in the context of a pop song. Although deeply unpleasant on a basic level, the song offends not because of its subject matter, but because of its insincerity. One never gets the sense that Wolf is involved in anything other than the creation of his own elaborate persona. Nothing here feels personal or deeply felt, and it seems that Wolf has chosen shocking imagery simply as a means to complicate his imagined world.

If this is what passes for conceptually and musically bold pop music, people need to renew their library cards and check out some David Bowie albums. Artists have invented personas many times in the past, all the while marrying them to engaging, difficult, passionate, groundbreaking music. Patrick Wolf is a charlatan and a dilettante, as Lycanthropy makes painfully clear.

By Jason Dungan

Read More

View all articles by Jason Dungan

Find out more about Tomlab

©2002-2011 Dusted Magazine. All Rights Reserved.