Album Review: Patrick Wolf – Lupercalia

By on Thursday, 16th June 2011 at 2:00 pm
 

With bands disappearing off the musical radar after one or two albums, it’s really hard to fathom that despite changing record labels a bunch of times, Patrick Wolf, at only age 27, is about to release his fifth album next Monday. See, the thing about Patrick Apps is, we’ve watched him grow from the shy yet emotionally open boy in 2003’s ‘Lycanthropy’ to where he is now with the upcoming release of ‘Lupercalia’: a happily married man in love with his partner and the world. Where 2009’s ‘The Bachelor’ was darker and reflected disillusionment, hurt, solitude and loneliness, most of ‘Lupercalia’ is lighter and happier. Or at least is a suggestion that love, while it can be all consuming, does conquer all.

‘The City’ (single review here, video below), the first single to premiere from this new collection and the opening track from the album, managed to polarise his dedicated fanbase – whom he addresses as the “Wolf Pack” – by showing off a bright, bubbly, poppy version of Patrick. A lot of people were asking what the heck happened to the angry, darker Patrick Wolf, but I welcome this change in attitude wholeheartedly. 2007’s ‘The Magic Position’ is my favourite of all of his albums (having purchased it at the now gone Virgin Megastore in Piccadilly Circus that year), and I feel in many ways, ‘Lupercalia’ is an extension of those happier days (and not surprisingly, a previous period in time where he was also in love). And this feels like a summery record you want around the house for your sunniest holidays this year.

After ‘The City’ is ‘House’ (video here), which is a sweetly woven little tune in which Wolf extols the virtues of his current living arrangement which, of course, includes his lover. It’s the wide-eyed wonderment of someone truly in love. Wolf performed an “acoustic” version of this song for Radio2’s In Concert with Jo Whiley last week, and the piano on this track – and indeed, throughout the entire record – is probably the single best instrument on ‘Lupercalia’. I often think fondly of Two Door Cinema Club’s guitars, because they’re able to make guitars “talk”. Patrick Wolf can make his piano do similarly amazing things, and the same can be said for really any instrument he plays.

Painting this album as complete happiness would be a mistake. There’s always a harder, deeper edge to Wolf that is always appears, even if “Angry Patrick” is not as loud on a “cheerful” record like ‘Lupercalia’. He explained to Whiley that this album was constructed to reflect two lovers coming together, then losing each other, before being reunited again in a happy ending. The middle portion comprises ‘The Future’, ‘Armistice’ and ‘William’, all retaining a wistful, yet regretful quality.

Is it acceptance of something gone wrong? You get your answer in the form of ‘Time of My Life’ (single review here, lyric video below), which may seem like an odd move, as a slap in the face for someone who’s spurned you. Been dumped? This is your salvation. Seriously, Patrick Wolf is practically daring you to get on the dance floor, shouting “[I’m] happy without you!” It might seem as out of place as ‘Accident and Emergency’ was on 2005’s otherwise meditative ‘Wind in the Wires’, but it’s a refreshing salve after three pretty serious songs. Which is good because ‘The Days’ and ‘Slow Motion’ feel like he’s fallen back in love yet he’s a tough case: tough case meaning he’s so wrapped up in his feelings (being in love, yet feeling vulnerable, worried the bottom is going to fall out of this great thing he’s got going…and who hasn’t felt that in a relationship?) that all he can do is emote. And we should all be grateful that Patrick Denis Apps has chosen music as his vocation.

When you listen to a Patrick Wolf album, you’re seeing his life reflected in the music. Not surprisingly given what’s been going on in his personal life, strong romantic bonds, engagement and marriage are major themes in ‘Lupercalia’. Early on in the album, he speaks of “two kisses” of ‘Bermondsey Street’. But these themes are best explored lyrically in the last two songs. The up tempo ‘Together’ ensures that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as Wolf insists, “true love knows no sacrifice”. Then you get washed over by the truly beautiful closing track ‘The Falcons’: “with nothing left to waste but opportunity / to be the lovers we have longed to be”. Your heart soars. When Wolf is in love, he wants everyone to feel this love and all its associated emotions. And you most definitely will, the first time you put this record on.

Patrick Wolf in love is pure sunlight, pure feeling. He’s peerless. Embrace him, and embrace this record.

8.5/10

‘Lupercalia’ will be released on 20 June (next Monday) on Hideout Records.

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6 Responses

1:35 pm
13th July 2011

Someone, what does he mean when he sings “true love knows no sacrifice”?

1:51 pm
13th July 2011

I think it’s equivalent to “to die by your side / is such a heavenly way to die” (Smiths, There is a Light That Never Goes out) or “I’d still leap in front of a flying bullet for you” (Smiths, What Difference Does It Make)…

that’s my personal opinion 🙂

2:06 pm
13th July 2011

That is a good look at it.

What first came to my mind was it seems irrelevant to say such a thing. But then I had a change of heart and thought maybe true love would never ask nor expect you to sacrifice anything for it. It simply accepts you completely, just as you are. But I could be wrong….

2:16 pm
13th July 2011

Hi Ashley,

I’m one of those people who doesn’t fall in love easily so when I do, I’m willing to move heaven and earth for the man I’m in love with. And the “beauty” of love, yeah, I’m thinking I would be willing to die for my loved one.

But I like your take on “simply accepts you completely, just as you are”, which is what I got out of “Damaris” (religious man’s son falling in love with a gypsy and going against all that is “accepted” in his community). Maybe I am being too fatalistic? 🙂

Mary x

2:24 pm
13th July 2011

Mary,

I actually asked my question on Patrick Wolf’s FB and waiting for a message back. I want to know what it means to him personally. It has struck my curiosity immensely, as you can see. =)

I want to know exactly what those few words portray because they seem to have impacted me hugely.

Your take on it intrigues me and my take on it is different, so could it mean numerous things? I love to analyze lyrics that mean something, and his new album, every single song is embedded in my heart and mind.

1:24 am
14th July 2011

I analyse lyrics all the time. I think I scare some songwriters when I ask/confront them about songs, but some songs have so much meaning to me, my life. I think all great music lovers have that in common: feeling something that very special from a song that no one can take from us. Patrick in particular is VERY good with his words and there are more songs of his that I can count on both hands that mean the world to me 🙂

I hope you get a response, Ashley!

Mary x

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