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POP MUSIC

A love-struck Patrick Wolf

The singer's notoriously dark outlook has undergone a transformation on his new album. Guess why.

July 08, 2007|August Brown | Times Staff Writer

PATRICK WOLF'S latest album might be his most unsettling yet. The 24-year-old English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist's first two records, "Lycanthropy" and "Wind in the Wires," explored such topics as werewolves, molestation and mutilation over gloomy string suites and hissing laptop-pop. Coupled with Wolf's hipster-gypsy fashion sense (he'll be the face of a Burberry campaign this fall) and teasingly ambiguous sexuality, his albums were thrilling but sometimes overreaching, making his Bjork-as-a-boy comparisons not entirely inaccurate.

His new one, "The Magic Position," is his most accessible yet most divisive record. The album is almost aggressively cheerful, with Wolf scoffing in song at terrorist attacks while the cover shows him riding a carousel dressed as an art-damaged Raggedy Andy. Imagine David Bowie fronting a Shirelles cover band, and you'll come close to the record's radical, lusty optimism. What happened?

In his Hollywood hotel room just before appearing on "The Jimmy Kimmel Show" recently, he said the answer is surprisingly simple: He fell in love.

This album is full of outright love songs. What brought this on?

"The Magic Position" is inspired by real events, which was exciting. It was a very domestic kind of love; we lived in a cottage together. We're both dark people, but we canceled out each other's darkness and turned into bright pleasure-seekers. We lived in our Disneyland, there was no dirt on the floor. Well, emotionally, of course there was rubbish everywhere.

It's almost shocking how hopeful the title track is.

I remember the morning -- my friend and I came out from dancing for 16 hours at a big warehouse. It was Monday morning and we were totally drunk and I'd split my trousers and my friend had vomit down her top and we felt fantastic. That's the kind of emotion the song is packed with. The front cover is sort of defiantly bright. Hustler magazine was going to give it a very nice review but then said they couldn't print the cover.

The album is arranged very differently than your other records. How did you get at this clean, vintage sound?

I was thinking about orchestral instruments most likely to portray that feeling of falling in love, and to me vibraphone was the first thing that came to mind because it trembles and it's very dramatic-sounding. When I was 13, I would listen to the Shangri-Las and Phil Spector, and that was my punk rock.

People speculate about your fashion sense and private life. Does that bother you?

The only thing that would worry me is that somebody who liked my music could be turned off by the public personality. I've been doing interviews since I was 17, and I would make things up and try to inject some energy. And then when people don't want to do that, they just go "You're obnoxious," and they don't want to play with you.

Well, you're pretty good at staying in the media, especially after the show in New York (where Wolf fired his drummer onstage) and the rumors of you retiring from music.

It's funny how you see on the Internet that somebody would take something and it's whispered so by the time it gets to the sixth music website it's like, 'Patrick wants to blow things up.' That happened with the (New York) Times thing, passing on information that got distorted into saying that I was retiring. It's such a joke because when I was 12, I stopped listening to any teachers and didn't listen to anything apart from my four-track, my violin and my Spanish guitar and just had my music. That's what I'll do until the day I die.

Your music and image always has a sense of mystery. How do you want to grow that element now that you're on a major label?

I would be very proud if I could do a Las Vegas revue for a week. I like the idea that Cher did her farewell tour taking the experiences of her life and making it into an hourlong concert. I did this show at the Astoria in London, and I had four costume changes. I had my outfits laid out like a Madonna tour, I finished in a pair of gold lame leggings.

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august.brown@latimes.com

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