Monday, September 12th, 2011

Patrick Wolf – Time of My Life

We’re not unfavourably inclined to a good re-release…


Katherine St Asaph: Patrick Wolf builds an argument against restraint: quaking percussion sharing space at the base with what’s damn close to the “Be My Baby” intro; relentless rhythm forming the walls, handclaps the mortar; strings curling into thick filigrees over it all. Every sound grabs you three times as hard as the last. Then you hear the words. You won’t understand the first two lines until you act them out, and then it’s devastating; later, Patrick repeats “happy without you” as if he’s confused the motions of mantras and running for his life. There are quibbles to be found — the vocals could be mixed higher, the ending could do something — but when I’ve said “screw subtlety,” it’s because of music like this.

Brad Shoup: Oh, these beautiful boys and their mannered pop. The strings do all the work while Wolf patches in handclaps, plucks and portentous strum. His baritone aches, but no scars are apparent. There’s no way out of this uncanny valley.

Anthony Easton: I just don’t believe him, and he doesn’t want us to believe him. I love the desperation that cannot be maintained as irony, and the fake smile that could be out of any suburban production of Annie or the better interpretations of Sally Bowles. I really want him to do a stripped-down version of “Maybe This Time,” or a synth/orchestral version of “Tomorrow.” Extra point for the hand claps. 

Josh Langhoff: Extraordinary production, with more distinct and beautiful timbres than I care to stop and count. The song’s not as euphoric as Wolf’s own “House” or Electronic’s “Getting Away With It”, which comes to mind whenever Wolf sings “of my life,” but listening to it is a pleasure.

Iain Mew: It’s a bit of an odd choice to rerelease this as the next single from Lupercalia when there are songs of pop genius like “Bermondsey Street” and “Together” ready and waiting. Still, “Time of my Life” has one of the best string arrangements in a long career of amazing string arrangements, Patrick back to sounding his most windswept and defiant, and a middle 8 that’s a perfect picture of determined calm.

Alex Ostroff: The sweeping strings are glorious, the drums have proper weight and the vocals are uplifting. All the ingredients are present to make “Time of My Life” a strong contender to enter the canon of upbeat songs about post-breakup perseverance. That would normally merit a [10], except that two years ago, Patrick teased us with 30 seconds of his original take on this song, which is devoid of strings and overlaid with industrial fuzz. His vocals filled with venom and bite, he inserts a “worst” into the repeated “Thanks for the time of my life!” and means it. It’s an ugly sentiment, and one that wouldn’t fit on the mature, contented Lupercalia, but it’s visceral and truthful. That Patrick can so profoundly alter the meaning of a song by removing a single word and tinkering with the arrangement is a testament to his skill. If the original mix speaks to my temperament, at least this version gives me an attitude to which I can aspire.

Jonathan Bogart: I’m sure I’m neither as uplifted or devastated as those of my colleagues who follow Patrick Wolf’s music to the point of knowing vaguely who he is, but this is too beautiful to dismiss.

3 Responses to “Patrick Wolf – Time of My Life”

  1. Re: excising the “worst” — A testament to skill, but still strange. Kate Bush did the same thing on Director’s Cut on “And So Is Love,” apparently with nobody noticing. The original lyric, “We used to say, ‘ah hell, we’re young,’ but now we see that life is sad, and so is love,” works on surprise value: “life is sad” is not the phrasing you expect, and it’s jarring. The Director’s Cut version, though, changes it to “life is sweet.” It’s wrong. That is to say, maybe Kate Bush had a change of heart and now believes it’s right — The Red Shoes didn’t exactly come out at the best of times for her — but still, I can’t listen to the new version; it’s wrong.

    I wish I knew more about Patrick Wolf to grasp that dynamic here. This is the first I’d heard of him, and it almost got a [10]. I’m a sucker for maximalism.

  2. Katherine – Patrick’s deal is multiple-istrumentalist who changes mood, arrangements and hair colours from album to album, but with a glorious excess in whatever direction he heads. Thus, the first album is angsty street urchin electrofolk, the second is Wuthering Heights English pastoral escape, the third is shiny chintzy pop, etc etc etc. The latest dispenses with the wanderlust and settles into domesticity. The upside of all this is that we get to hear an incredibly talented musician try on an endless series of different guises. The downside is that, as in this case for me, you hear perfectly wonderful songs and wonder how they would have turned out a couple of drafts earlier.

  3. Found the Original. The sound on this is a total mess – live performances but it’s the only full version we have of the original, I think. The ukelele and Alec Empire/glitch production are there, and so is some sort of a pre-chorus around 1:50 that part of me thinks would be quite wonderful if I ever heard it properly.–m5rpRW6c