A veteran songsmith, Wyatt’s music is meditative and subtly constructed. Not a thrill a minute (is life?), Comicopera is a subtle record, demanding the listener’s full attention to extract maximum reward. It’s most poignant moments of sound are generated not by raw power, but by intelligent song structure.

Young bands tend to go for the listener’s throat, with a rush and a push of sheer adrenaline and force of will; it’s their energy which attracts. Sometimes, it’s because they don’t quite know how to write a song, but if they’re good enough, the sheer drive and irrepressibility lets them get away with it.

This is very different. Listen to the chastening ‘A.W.O.L’, for example, a harsh reflection on the realities of growing old in this world. ‘The tick and the tock of the damnable clock’ (and notice the way he pronounces the ‘n’ of damnable) is the rhythm that beats out as the protagonist, Hattie, waves to ‘trains that no longer run’, ‘haunted by waltzes with Harry / who’s hat’s hanging there in the hall’. This is an unflinching evocation of loneliness and mortality, which leaves the listener with much to ponder.

Wyatt sounds like a David Bowie who didn’t have a problem with getting old. ‘You You’, in fact, reminds me of the more ambient sounds on Bowie’s “Heroes”, with its solemn brass backdrop. Brian Eno was involved with Comicopera, playing instruments on various songs and sharing composition credits on ‘A Beautiful Peace’ (which also features a cameo from old Roxy Music stager Phil Manzanera on guitar), during which Wyatt assumes a narrative tone, describing an English high street, strewn with flattened dead rabbits and polystyrene containers half full of chips. ‘What’s that in the gutter? He obviously didn’t want to finish his chips… that’s unusual’. There’s something deeply touching about this flat description of any small, poxy English town’s depressing environs. The seniority and the lack of condemnation in the tone make the song.

Each of the three parts contains a variation on the same melody – ‘You You’ in Part 1 (Lost in Noise), ‘Out of the Blue’, which closes part 2 (The Here and The Now) with the chant ‘you have planted all your neverending hatred in my heart’, whilst Wyatt pimps on an ‘Enotron’ (essentially a mellotron loaded with samples of Eno’s voice). The melody reoccurs in Part 3 (Away With The Fairies), in which Wyatt sings in Italian and Spanish, a form of linguistic protest against the ongoing (neverending?) War on Terror. “Just being silent as an English-speaking person, because of this fucking war”, he explains. Well said.

A slow, sprawling, haunting album from a man whose art is his life and whose life is his art. Comicopera is lengthy and brooding, but its depths and rewarding of repeated visits. Try to love him the way he is, because you’ll never change a thing about him.

http://www.myspace.com/robertwyatt

-Ollie Wright

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