- Patrick Wolf
- Release date
- 26th February 2007
- Indie pop
Britain has always been good at producing "the outsider pop star". Alongside your sexy, swaggering Jagger, Gallagher and Gillespie types have appeared an alternative breed. Awkward, wimpy and probably bullied at school, these are the mavericks who find refuge in music, create their own idiosyncratic world and gain a fanbase of kindred spirits - think Bowie, Morrissey, Jarvis, all transformed into glamorous icons for the disaffected and lonely.
Following in such alternative footsteps comes South London dandy Patrick Wolf with this, his third album and major label debut. Multi-instrumentalist Wolf has spent the last five years on the fringes building a cult following via 2003's experimental and anarchic Lycanthropy and 2005's more pastoral and folky Wind In The Wires. With The Magic Position, however, an album of rich technicolour pop, Wolf is hungry for adoration and going for the mainstream jugular.
Of course, image is key with these outsider types and Wolf is no different, challenging you with his cover art: he sits astride a kiddies' carousel in bright red girly cowboy shirt and culottes, all made-up eyes and androgynous pout. The Magic Position's 13 tracks, however, are not quite so polarising. With a voice deeper than you might expect - think Matt Johnson or Lloyd Cole - Wolf chronicles falling in love with the aid of the Symphony Orchestra of Vienna. Much like that other pop maverick Björk, he effortlessly mixes the analogue with the digital and when bold and brash, it works pretty well - the thinking man's Mika, if you will. Strings counterpoint pounding beats and squelchy bass on Overture and The Magic Position while Accident & Emergency and Get Lost bounce along joyously like a camp Grandaddy partying with Belle & Sebastian.
In more quiet moments, however, such as Secret Garden and the Marianne Faithfull duet Magpie, Wolf can lose his way and stray into the melodramatic, almost experimenting and playing for effect, rather than letting the song breathe, meaning he can sound rather too enraptured with himself at times. Unlike his undoubted heroes Bowie and Bush, who somehow pull us into their universe, however strange or avant garde, Wolf remains somewhat too detached to allow us fully into his world.
Give it a couple of albums and a few more years' of maturity and that could all change, but for now, Wolf remains an outsider, rather than the outsider pop star he aspires to be.