Patrick Wolf – Sundark and Riverlight (Mercury)

October 28, 2012 by  

For ten years Patrick Wolf has been wooing the world with his hyper-talent, playing dozens of instruments as well as penning his own work. A Prince of the 00’s, if only he wasn’t so tall and so white.

Sadly he has never lived up to the heights he surely believes he can reach. He should really be the thinking man?s Lady Gaga – with his eye for flamboyance and camp – but determinedly Wolf marches on with an unusual best of his work, unplugged and with new arrangements. It spans all five albums over two discs; one for the day and the other, of course, the night.

Only Wolf would choose such an odd approach to commemorate his first ten years. A best of compilation containing some of his truly brilliant works would have been an excellent way of re-introducing himself to new fans and old. But to rework classics in an acoustic setting is the sort of album record labels ask stars from years ago in a cynical way to strain some more juice out of their cash cow nipple – think Ray Davies. That said, there is some excellent work on the double album. ‘Together’, with its added Spanish guitar is a haunting melody. ?Paris? is far better when it has shaken its electronic shackles off, which is also true for ?Libertine? and much of his early material – they sound far more mature and beautiful in their new skin.

Sadly Wolf has chosen a rather eclectic mix of tracks and ignored some of his greatest moments – ?Damaris? and ?Time of my Life? would have been fine choices. But with so many songs at his disposal he surely would never please everyone, other than himself. One could call this project rather self indulgent and they would be right, but then would we expect anything different from Patrick Wolf.

Not the perfect starting point for any curious listener – try ?The Magic Position? – but a far better soundtrack to a Sunday’s light reading than Ben Howard.