Never one to shy away from pushing the boat out too far, Patrick Wolf is back with a record that’s less “Look at me! Look at me!” and more “This is the talent my hardcore fans have been screaming about for years.” Based on a first listen, fifth album Lupercalia is the better looking, less try-hard sister to predecessor The Bachelor. And not a whiff of Alec Empire lurking in the shadows either.
Similar to PJ Harvey shocking us all with her new smiley self circa Stories…, Patrick Wolf sounds (wait for it) optimistic and upbeat. No, really. He sounds positively lovelorn on ‘Together’ (“I can’t do this alone”) and croons lines like “But now I’m so proud of you” plaintively on ‘Bermondsey Street.’ When he says “Things are looking up, up, up” throughout ‘The Falcons’ you actually believe him and it’s hard to fathom that he could’ve ever pulled off doom and gloom merchant.
Lupercalia flows easier than previous records and feels less forced and showy for the sake of showiness, which Wolf was undeniably guilty of on previous outings and even his vocals display a new, powerful conviction. Musically it’s disco beats meets strings, strings and more strings (see ‘The Days’) as he weaves heavy orchestration and disco together seamlessly through slick production. Overall, it’s the mood of positivity permeating this record which makes it such an irresistible proposition.
Lupercalia is an album about love, plain and simple. Grandiose and always teetering on the brink of OTT, but oh so epic and lush. Positivity is a suit Mr Wolf wears to perfection. With his stroppy reputation, who would’ve ever guessed it?