Patrick Wolf
Lycanthropy
2003
B-



ly·can·thro·py n.

1. In folklore, the magical ability to assume the form and characteristics of a wolf.
2. A kind of erratic melancholy, in which one believes one has become or assumed the characteristics of a wolf or other animal.

6-foot-lots and too scrawny skinny thin tall boney blonde to hug; Patrick Wolf. A glass of red wine and poison. A shock of blonde hair. A Family Romance. A destitute teenager. A shiver at the site of the full moon. Homeless, hungry, half-insane. Patrick Wolf. Was once a boy. Cut off his penis and grew a hairy scar of stubborn fire. You gave him pretty clothes and he gave you what was between his legs. His blood beats black tonight. Run run run, as fast as you can, but you can’t run run from the Childcatcher’s hand. Wrote your name in his shit across the town.

If William Blake had had access to Dizzee Rascal’s recording studio and become bored of seeing angels and engraving poems he might have sounded like this, like some fucked-up 19th century urban urchin run amok with digital sound technology and an imagination that makes even your strangest imaginings and dreams feel normal, mundane, typical compared to what you imagine his everyday routine must be like. Supposedly thrown out of home at fifteen, Patrick Wolf, now twenty, is a bizarre anachronism, painting Dickensian wolfboy folk-fables using a tapestry of instruments that includes ukulele, accordion, penny whistle, violin and laptop.

“Prelude” starts Lycanthropy with a howl or yowl, but then less like a wolfman turning (no Jenny Agutter naked for Patrick, at least yet) than an out-take from latter-day Talk Talk, displaced strings and disconsolate feedback stretched thin over the horizon, to give way to some woodwind or pipe or whistle for “Wolf Song”, not quite in the frequency to summon a dog but on the way, a folk song about the devil, about wolves, about pursuit, about what would be cannibalism were Patrick Wolf not, well… a wolf. “Blood Beat” is the shock of the new, laptop paranoia, pulse and whirr and stereo-panning, “I wake at dusk / to go alone / without a light / to the unknown”. In the hands of anyone but this strange lost boy these juxtapositions would seem forced, unnecessary, but for Patrick (part-Bowie, part-Björk, part-Virginia Woolf, part-John Landis) it is logical; he has no home. And so “Demolition” becomes Phillip Glass’ soundtrack to Koyanisqaatsi; “London” is a string-soaked elegy; “Pigeon Song” an accordion lament for a child lost in the capital’s streets; Wolf himself a whisperer, a singer, a yowler, a dramatis personae playing a dozen roles, each one straying off the road and onto the moors.

“A boy like me / is told he is both nine and ninety… I want two dogs / two cats / a big kitchen / and a welcome mat…”

The string-swell of “Epilogue” being torn asunder by skipping glitch is the last thing we hear, confirmation of the restlessness at the heart of Lycanthropy. More than wolves and full moons and lysergic dreams this is an album about being homeless and lost and young, an imagination given over to the streets but lodged in the hills and the past and the world where vampires and demons and werewolves live side-by-side with petty criminals and DJs and wide boys and scammers. Bizarre and whimsical and freakish and compelling in equal measure.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2004-03-02
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