Released: October 9, 2007
Metacritic Score: 86 (102nd)
Genre: Progressive-Rock, Jazz
Length: 1:00:15 (16 Tracks)
Label: Domino Records
Follows: Theatre Royal Drury Lane 8th September 1974
One of the most highly regarded albums of 2007, Robert Wyatt's most recent effort is a deeply layered post-rock/jazz amalgamation from the label that brought us Animal Collective, Franz Ferdinand, and the Arctic Monkeys.
Listen To "Stay Tuned"
I was pretty excited
About listening to Robert Wyatt’s 2007 album, Comicopera for three reasons:
- I like jazz, but for whatever reason don’t listen to it all that often. This being listed as a jazz-fusion/post-rock album, I figured it would probably strike a few favorable cords.
- To a great extent, Metacritic’s list is filled with artists who are relatively new on the scene (or were when their Top-200 album was released). Wyatt on the other hand, has been active for something like… a half-century or so. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the new faces and hear what a true veteran has to offer.
- Any album that can render Thom Yorke (of Radiohead fame) unable to continue listening beyond the first track because it is “too beautiful” has got to have something going for it.
Thoughts on the Album:
Comicopera ranks in at a modest 102nd on Metacritic’s Top-200, and at just over an hour in length, it has quite a bit more complexity and depth than the three albums I’ve already finished write-ups for.
It’s safe to say that an hour is on the long side for a typical album, and to be honest, with longer works I often find myself wishing the artist had done some self-editing. Comicopera is far from typical however, and thanks in part to its three-act “operatic” structure, it successfully avoids the shortcomings that often plague longer pieces.
Act 1: Lost in Noise
While the first two acts don’t sound all that different from one another, they do carry significant thematic disparities. Act one is the more emotionally gripping and personal of the two, with a mood that borders on melancholic. “Stay Tuned” and “A.W.O.L” are easily among my favorite tracks on the album, and as a whole the first act was probably my favorite section.
Act 2: The Here and The Now
The second segment is a bit quirkier and upbeat, but definitely plays more politically minded than the first. I actually like “On the Town Square” as a sort of interlude for Comicopera’s mid-point, and appreciated the unexpected incorporation of steel drums into the album’s repertoire. The second act was initially my least favorite of the three, but having listened through a couple more times, it’s not any worse, just different—less immediately accessible, perhaps.
Act 3: Away With the Fairies
The third act is notable for being sung almost entirely in Italian and Spanish, and the final five tracks prove to be quite a different experience than the first eleven—the fresh point of view in act three means that the album never feels overly long. Being unable to understand the lyrics actually proved to accentuate Wyatt’s voice, which is absolutely stunning through the final five tracks.
The Bottom Line:
Different music calls for different listening tactics. Some albums sound best in the car, accompanied by a cloudless blue sky and the freedom of the open road. Some can be most interesting in the uninterrupted solitude of your own room through a pair of nice headphones. Others simply cannot be experienced fully unless heard live, directly from the lips of the artist.
I don’t know if Robert Wyatt ever performs live anymore—from what I’ve read it seems to be a rare experience these days, but Comicopera is the type of album I would pay a pretty penny to hear in person. It just feels like the kind of music that would be about fifty times more awesome if you were in the room with Wyatt himself.
It’s probably quite likely I’ll never get to experience that, which is unfortunate, but even through headphones or Comicopera is a true pleasure to listen to. It very much deserves its place on Metacritic’s list, and is probably my favorite of the albums I’ve written up so far.
If you decide to give it a listen (which I recommend), keep an open mind. Robert Wyatt isn’t the most accessible artist on Metacritic, but it should be pretty easy for any music fan to find something they like on Comicopera.
*edit: I was doing a little more research and discovered something that makes perfect sense in light of the comments I made about this album probably being best heard live. Apparently, Wyatt wanted the album to sound as live as possible, and therefore the album was recorded “live” with Wyatt and the full band performing simultaneously from the same room.
So in a way, we got to hear Comicopera live after all…
Best Song: A.W.O.L
Runners Up: Stay Tuned or "Hasta Siempre Comandante"
Least Fave: Not digging “Be Serious” so much.
"Memories fading for patty nowAccolades: Best album of 2007, Wired Magazine
There’s nothing and no one to trust
Just the tick and the tock
Of the damnable clock
As the world that she does turns to dust"
Robert Wyatt on Last.FM
Comicopera on Amazon
On Deck: Cee-Lo Green Is The Soul Machine - Cee-Lo