Patrick Wolf

Wind in the Wires

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There's little doubt that the emotional turbulence of youth serves as the artist's first muse. As we grow older that muse takes on more and more baggage, rendering its initial miserable/joyous purity lost amongst the responsibilities of adulthood. Multi-instrumentalist/singer/songwriter Patrick Wolf harnessed that angst on 2003's moody and apocalyptic Lycanthropy, and has refined it without losing any of its edge on his latest: the elegant, volatile and still kind of apocalyptic Wind in the Wires. Wolf's voice has matured -- he's still only 21 -- into a lonely and powerful tool of judgment. He pines like Ian McCulloch -- there's a definite Echo & the Bunnyman tone to the whole affair -- and takes the occasional left turn into Jeff Buckley-falsetto territory, always in the service of the song -- the stark "Railway House" blends the two effortlessly. Lyrically, Wolf may revel in the Gothic imagery of artists like Nick Cave and Tom Waits -- "The circus girl fell off her horse and now she's paralyzed/the hitchhiker was bound and gagged, raped on the roadside" -- but there's a young man's honest pain behind all of the flowery English vernacular. Like the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon, he both loathes and lusts for the U.K. Whether he's walking alone along its windswept moors ("Ghost Song") or preparing for its annihilation -- the brutal "Tristan" -- he's armed to the teeth with an arsenal of violins, pump organs and his trusty laptop to tell its all too familiar story, that alienation is universal and art is its only trusted interpreter.

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