The first thing you notice about Lupercalia, the new Patrick Wolf full-length, is that it’s pure, crystalline and chaste. The singer is in the foreground, a white total look above a white background. The only thing that stands out is the red hair. As its cover, Lupercalia is a hymn to the peace of mind, heart and soul.
Everything began with The Bachelor, a masterpiece which represented the first part of the so-called ‘Battle’ project. The album which would complete this double release would have been called The Conqueror. However, things not always end up to be as we plan: Hideout Recordings became a major and Wolf redefined the upcoming album, which was eventually renamed Lupercalia, (fertility rite celebrated in ancient times around Valentine’s Day). Despite that, the concept is more or less the same; this full length is a celebration of someone who found love, happiness and protection. Once again, the private life of a singer becomes the focal point of the full album, leading the listener to a full melodic pop celebration of his new stage of life with optimism, and no objections to his account of happiness.
On the one hand, this account of happiness is well represented by baroque solidly supported by orchestral instruments and some ABBA dance pop influences. The City opens the album as a manifesto of this festive atmosphere, with some jazz features and lot of synth, meanwhile Bermondsey Street plays with delicate sound and violins, with some oriental hints. The Future exploits a full range of instruments (woodwinds, strings) to reach a climax, which still keeps a pinch of melancholy; same setting for the fairy-tale atmosphere of The Days and The Falcons, in which piano and violins give us an 80s resemblance of old style baroque pop (a bit of Bowie legacy).
On the other hand, this account of happiness plays at the expense of what had made its predecessor (The Bachelor) one of the most eclectic albums yet. His happiness at the expense of what had made him such an innovator. Even if we can recall some folktronic in tracks like Together and Slow Motion, the solar atmosphere and linearly Pop melodies destroy the magic of the dark and lengthy previous experimentations (Time of My Life, Armistice).
All in all, I cannot deny Patrick Wolf a good 50/100, because the songs are clean, perfect in their representation of perfection and hope, and exquisitely pop. However, his sound lost what really fascinated me, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. Even if I’m sincerely happy for him, I’ll probably go back to his dark, complex and nostalgic music period.