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Robert Wyatt - Cuckooland CD (album) cover

CUCKOOLAND

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

3.52 | 85 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars Again released on the Boyd-owned Hannibal records and again recorded in Manzanera's facilities, some six years after the sublime Shleep, Robert had ample time to write a normal album's worth of song, but he misses the mark a bit since he fills the Cd (1.5 album's worth) almost up to the brim. Hence he falls back on his eternal problem: he's just not a prolific songwriter for him deliver real strong albums of Shleep's caliber (or RISTR & RB), thus handing in a lukewarm oeuvre for fans expecting much more. Even the amateurish artwork is botched, and there is no obvious concept despite the album being cut in two distinct parts (separated by 30 seconds of blank) and the amalgamated tracks of both entities don't seem to add to anything immediately visible in terms of ambiances or message, outside maybe denouncing human atrocities to mankind, but then again it's 30 years ol'Rob's been denouncing such things. The man seems tired of mankind and this his protest is half-hearted, as if he knew it wouldn't help and it would be the last.

Returning to the songwriting issue, there are three tracks from collab Mantler and three covers and one from Wifie Alfie, the rest being Wyatt's usual depressive music, but without any kind of genius or even the slightest enthusiasm. The usual suspects are in to give a hand, but it doesn't seem to help either. I really have problems concentrating on this one because it goes in every musical direction possible extensively, but on the whole this makes a very patchy effort. This tedious effort sometimes veers into straight jazz songs rather tedious that even having Dave Gilmour (a nOObie ;-)) in aboard changes nothing for we cannot hear his typical style peaking through, while the torrid experimental and fusion-esque horns of Shleep are now blizzard-frozen into conventional use. Actually this album has a very soppy mushy side to it, containing some strange (and deformed) forms of jazz (Mister E, Insantez, Old Europe etc), while the most biting "rockier" tracks (Lullaloop, Trickle Down & the album-best Beware) have a hard time matching the calmer Shleep tracks. One of the only tracks where Wyatt shows his emotions is in the cello/strings-laden minimalist Foreign Accents track. Lovely emotive clarinet on the closing La Ahada Valam.

On the whole, if this had more of a focus, beit musical or conceptual, Cuckooland might have deserved another star; but let's face it, even Wyatt can't win them all. Some four years later would appear Comicopera that would partially copy the mood from this album, but I found more "classic astounding Wyatt sounds" in that one, than in the present. Rarely have I met an album facing such unfavorable comparison and suffering from neighborhood of a predecessor. Avoid is my advice.

Sean Trane | 2/5 |

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