INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
New Internationalist JUNE 1999 - by Louise Gray
ROBERT WYATT: EPS
Attempting to sum up Robert Wyatt's contribution to pop is a difficult job. Not to suggest that the man's career is anyway over - this covetously nice boxed set of five EPs disproves any such thing. Wyatt, a singer and writer who came to prominence in the 1960s with the British band Soft Machine, developed a career which combined artistry with an unswerving passion for social justice. This is reflected in many of the pieces collected here and while Wyatt has always been outspoken in his Marxist sympathies he has never been doctrinaire.
This collection takes as its starting point the end of the Softies in 1971 and traces a trajectory up to the present day with selections from last year's album Shleep plus various remixes. Most of the material is available elsewhere on Wyatt's numerous releases, but the beauty of EPs is in its size. These 'extended plays' - each one less than an album, but more than a single - offer a format that allows for a short, concentrated exploration around a thematic grouping. There's a 1974 cover of I'm A Believer; the shimmering sorrow of Shipbuilding, an eloquent indictment of Thatcher and the Falklands war in just minutes; and tracks from the 1982 movie The Animals Film. Wyatt's music can be sparse, but it's also simultaneously vulnerable and taut; Sakamoto had a point when he described his as "the saddest voice in the world". That is, in a sense, the beauty of Wyatt's work. Even when he's on a roll - delivering a mighty cover of Victor Jara's Te Recuerdo, Amanda or Amber And The Amberines, written after the US invasion of Grenada - there's the tenderness of farewell in each of them. Hear this for the songs, the passion, the players: Brian Eno, Fred Frith and Paul Weller all make appearances. Wyatt's one of a kind.