WORDS: ANDREW SAMPSON
Never judge a book by its cover…If you’re incapable of being open-minded, or if you can’t understand or appreciate a work of art simply because it doesn’t appeal to you (aesthetically), you should probably avoid baseless judgement on its contents.
Unless, of course, you realise (eventually) that your doubts were inferring some truth and that, in actual fact, some books (or even albums for that matter) can be judged based on their covers.
Those were my initial sentiments on The Golden Age – an album that I (unfairly) judged before listening too (I had only listened to one song prior to listening to the full-length album), and ultimately an album which proved my doubts true.
Woodkid, music video director turned singer-songwriter, released his debut album, The Golden Age, in early 2013. After the release of his acclaimed music video for “Run Boy Run” in mid-2012, expectations for his debut album were high. Also, having directing credits for videos by pop divas including Taylor Swift, Lana Del Rey and Katy Perry to his name, his debut was bound to make some sort of impact (musically at least). It didn’t. Instead, from start to finish he crafts directionless and overdramatic songs, more fitted to movie soundtracks than easy listening. Which is evident in his music video masterpieces that overshadow the music entirely.
He takes a maximalist approach throughout the autobiographical record – loud and obnoxious drums, brass and choir, and a sweeping string orchestra; all for grandiosity, contrasting his soft and fragile vocals on tracks “I Love You” and “Stabat Mater”. When he attempts (unsuccessfully) to navigate through his messy compositions, his voice often cracks under the pressure of all the musical chaos. His song writing suffers too.
Amidst the fanfare and confusion, however, “Boat Song”, “Iron” and “Where I Live” stand out from the crowd and show true glimpses of Woodkid’s musicality – offering possible alternatives for his other compositions, which often lack identity. The title of the album, and the album artwork itself, therefore highlight the irony of its contents – an alluring and grandiose title that promises much, but ultimately has an album cover that is just as uninviting and underdeveloped as its music.
The Golden Age then, due to its dramatic and sombre aesthetic, needs compelling visuals in order for the music to come alive. At present, and despite the array of instruments used to create vivid colour, it is dull and depressing – transporting its listener to a boring, rather than golden, age.