New Internationalist

Comicopera

Issue 406

Robert Wyatt delivers up a real treat in the form of Comicopera, an album conceived as a whole of three acts and stuffed with old friends, including Brian Eno, Paul Weller, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and brass players Annie Whitehead and Gilad Atzmon. The uniting idea of the album is comedy: the comedy of life, of errors, of human foibles.

Three sections, starting with ‘Lost in Noise’, a cover of Anja Garbarek’s ‘Stay Tuned’, and 16 songs give Wyatt great room to manoeuvre. The moods in Comicopera shift quickly. If the five opening songs are a plea for patience, they are well-placed ones, light in tone and – on ‘Just As You Are’, guest-starring Monica Vasconcelos – intimate. This is carried through to ‘The Here and the Now’, the second act that kicks off with the laid-back charm of ‘A Beautiful Place’, Wyatt chatting his way into an underscored song penned with Eno. Things darken: ‘Out of the Blue’ opens with Eno’s voice, manipulated to an oscillating tone on the ‘enotron’: the song is suffused with a tension only dispelled in the final act, ‘Away with the Fairies’. It’s here that Wyatt gives up on English as a vehicle for conveying feeling. Moving into Italian for a luminously beautiful cover of CCCP’s ‘Del Mondo’, and ending with a jaunty version of Carlos Puebla’s ‘Hasta Siempre Comandante’, this is Wyatt at his best.

Louise Gray

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