Patrick Wolf Wind in the Wires

[Tomlab; 2005]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: electronic pop, folk, new wave, chamber pop
Others: Apostle of Hustle, The Notwist, Franz Ferdinand, Elbow, The Books

Despite a press kit that screams 'genius incarnate,' there is something undeniably unmoving about this young artist and his new CD. The picture is painted of a boy genius and quirky musical prodigy that once built a theremin and, on occasion, wears a bird's nest in his hair. I fell for it big time. I was ready for something revelatory. What I got was derivative, vapid songwriting augmented with gimmicky electronica production touches. It's occasionally moving, but then, so is Coldplay. We all have moments where "Crash" by the Dave Matthews Band hits us just right in our supermarket stupor and we feel that twinge. Speaking for myself, that twinge is usually followed by something along the lines of I wish they'd go back to playing Hall & Oates.

Patrick Wolf's got himself a nice enough, if not at all distinctive, singing voice, and it's best displayed as it is on the relatively unadorned tune, "The Railway House." It's a good little song, though its circular percussion style was done much more satisfyingly in "Song For Lorca" by Apostle of Hustle. That artist is actually a nice point of reference, since he touches upon similar (if a little less maudlin) emotional shades. The surprise payoff dependably comes to the fore on Folkloric Feel, while Wind in the Wires almost never fails to take a promising introduction and sink it like a stone. Its consistent failures are proportional to its undeniable strength and promise. Were the album not so lush and fascinating at times, it wouldn't suck so much that tracks as solid as "Ghost Song" were in the minority. And then there's the ultimate low. On "Tristan" the galloping break from the preceding dreariness is met with some embarrassingly silly vocal delivery. So if a sprightlier tempo isn't going to save Wolf from mediocrity, I'm at a loss as to what will.

I suppose this album isn't so bad. There's a professional, assured feeling it, but its nagging lack of innovation or truly memorable melody leaves me a little cold. It's too ornamental, too professional. I noticed in his bio that he was once in a London band that fused white noise and pop. While this is hardly a novel idea, I'm sure it would be a more rewarding listen than this collection of perky, yet ultimately leaden pop-dirges. It's a good thing he's as young as he is, because he has lots of time to re-map his admirable artistic poise into something more groundbreaking.

1. The Libertine
2. Teignmouth
3. The Shadow Sea
4. Wind in the Wires
5. The Railway House
6. The Gypsy King
7. Apparition
8. Ghost Song
9. This Weather
10. Jacobs Ladder
11. Tristan
12. Eulogy
13. Lands End

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