Patrick Wolf is a wise man. His new record, The Bachelor, opens with a wallop so fierce it would knock back even the most seasoned hater. That song, “Hard Times,” is what Peter Murphy wishes “Cuts You Up” had been—the ultimate accessible goth rock song. He’s wise to open with this because its promise is enough to keep your attention when the record briefly loses steam midway through before picking up again near the end. Not that those songs are bad, but they’re merely good while others are magnificent. If the midsection of The Bachelor weren’t up against these odds, it might fare better.
But Wolf is clearly a talented songwriter. “Hard Times” and the beautiful, soft, string-laden “Theseus” prove that. And he successfully runs the gamut of influence from his Irish heritage to early Cure to industrial to rock and on. Call him baroque pop if you want, but he’s got some tricks up his sleeve. So, while this isn’t a great record, it shows that he’s capable of great things. Just give him time. One day he will produce the dramatic masterpiece he has lurking beneath.
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