It’s something of a relief that Patrick Wolf’s planned double album never saw the light of day. What was meant to be its first part, 2009’s ‘The Bachelor’, was a mess, and an extremely disappointing one at that. It wasn’t that the songs themselves were particularly bad, though; more that they didn’t work as an album. They tried to do too much. They were unfocused.
Simply put, ‘Lupercalia’ is everything that its predecessor wasn’t. It’s an orchestral pop album, and a very good one at that, whereas ‘The Bachelor’ was all over the place, undefinable and undefined. ‘Lupercalia’ is also what we were promised: the joyous, euphoric counterpart to its unsettled and brooding predecessor. It is also something Mr. Wolf can be immensely proud of - he should be.
‘The Bachelor’ took too many risks, but this is not to say that ‘Lupercalia’ doesn’t take any. For instance, there aren’t many songs that can get away with chucking in a sax solo, but ‘The City’ is one of them. In a similar fashion, there’s a thin line between uplifting and cheesy, but this record, for all its huge choruses and swelling orchestration, never once overdoes things. In that respect, it is the anti-‘Bachelor’.
This wouldn’t be a Patrick Wolf album without some more introspective moments, though, and despite it being ‘Lupercalia”s token ballad, ‘Slow Motion’ is harrowing, documenting its creator’s near-meltdown while touring ‘The Magic Position’ in 2007. ‘The Days’ is also inspired by the same subject matter, but the juxtaposition of dark lyrics and soaring arrangements works wonderfully.
It’s been an eventful few years for him, there’s no doubt about that, but it sounds like Wolf, who’s now in love again, has put all of that behind him. It certainly seems that way, going by the chorus of the album closer ‘The Falcons’: ‘Things are looking up for you / Looking up for me / Looking up for us, finally.’ Happy to hear it. This album is probably his most focused - possibly even his best - since ‘Wind in the Wires’. The Wolf’s got his bite back.