Walt Disco

Walt Disco – The Warping (Lucky Number)

Walt Disco still doesn’t have its own Wikipedia page. Just think about it! A “new favourite band” of Tilda Swinton that has just released their second studio album, having been in the game since around 2018 and becoming an indie music phenomenon in 2019 with singles ‘Since Past Tense’ and ‘Strange to Know Nothing’, still hasn’t been honored with a personal biographical entry. The only official recognition of their existence from reputable databases I managed to find were small bio pieces on Genius and Last.fm. World, what’s wrong with you?

The same Last.fm page (sorry for the unintentional advertising) lists many young and talented bands like Sports Team, Shame, Yard Act, Do Nothing, and other representatives of the crank wave or post-Brexit new wave among their similar artists. And that’s as far from the truth as Oasis from its reunion. When writing about such fresh and promising acts, it’s always safe to compare them with each other within the radius of one general subgenre because new musicians are much more closely bound with their peers than with musical great-grandfathers. However, Walt Disco’s sonic roots stem more from ’80s post-punk, new wave, and glam rock itself than their derivatives.

This brings us to The Cure and David Bowie (and Queen, of course), as well as to a whole bunch of other comparisons like Talking Heads, Tears for Fears, Duran Duran, Cocteau Twins, Devo, and Talk Talk. Instead of the trendy raw and razor-sharp chants of modern post-Britpop heroes, Ziggy Stardust’s flamboyant costumes and Robert Smith’s lullabies about “spiderman” eating children are the first ones in the line among analogies that come to mind when you listen to the theatrical opuses of Walt Disco. Based on their almost timeless and, in some ways, an already iconic sound, this extremely talented Glasgow five-piece is one of the first acts to get straight into the history of music when they out their opus magnum. 

Until then, let’s talk about their second full-length venture, The Warping. Utterly artistic and piercing ‘Come Undone’ proves much of the above from the get-go with simultaneously picaresque and touching chorus. “Your eyes met mine / I can’t resist / Fools one last time / And you made me”, sings songwriter and singer Jocelyn Si. These simple but catchy lines could have been among the most influential if they had appeared about 40 years earlier. By connecting Disintegration epoch with the ‘Ashes to Ashes’ / ‘Let’s Dance’ era and emotionally Impactful delivery with a carnivalesque aesthetic, they consciously or subconsciously draw a parallel between their oeuvre and the profound circus-centric metaphor used by — let’s turn up the pretentiousness of this review — Federico Fellini.

The iconic author of La Strada and The Clowns used circus themes in his films to mirror the state of life, art, and humanity. The world of clowns, sometimes funny, sometimes cringey, sometimes extremely dramatic and disgusting, represents contrasts between fantasy and reality, order and chaos, joy and sorrow, er, as Ville Valo sang. It works the same way in Walt Disco’s lyrics and visuals: behind the baroque stage image with pompous scenery and lines about “garden gnomes”, “limelight”, and “Broadway”, vulnerable lyrics about an aging mother, the death of a childhood dog, and other mundane things peek through. “It’s a form of therapy to talk about that bittersweetness, but ultimately we’re grateful to be here”, says keyboardist Finlay McCarthy.

Right from the grandiose, proper, opener ‘Gnomes’, they sing about a “washed-up stage performer”, presenting us with one of the year’s most spectacular and majestic performances, if not two. Mixing Muse-like cosmic synths with Billy Mackenzie-evoking vocals and orchestral euphoria, they establish themselves as new avant-garde heroes, heirs of The Tiger Lillies, or, let’s dig deeper, even Marlene Dietrich. At the same time, their lyrics are full of life’s ordinary truths, which we will discuss a few paragraphs below. “I don’t know / What’s good to say or what is conversational / Do I need to stay or is it optional?”, sings Si in ‘You Make Me Feel So Dumb’, adding some irony.

Compared with their debut LP Unlearning, recorded in the claustrophobia of lockdown, this one sounds way more adult-ish, thoughtful, and reserved. In fact, the aforementioned ‘Come Undone’ is almost the only really outstanding pop number here. Right after synth-poppy ‘The Warping’ and, as they call it, “cynical disco banger” ‘You Make Me Feel So Dumb’, with charming Samuel T. Herring-tinged baritone, follows the tender lullaby ‘Pearl’, the ambient-laden bittersweet flashback ‘Black Chocolate’, and the barely audible country twang-soaked ‘Jocelyn’. Even if there are some catchy hooks, they are delivered with a calmer and gentler approach.

Celtic-sounding and Moby-Dick-inspired’ The Captain’ looks like a perfect opener for a show at Wembley Stadium or even a great soundtrack for FIFA video games. The horns and marching drums-infused ‘Weeping Willow’ gives us a bucket of unsettling and bitter emotions based on a recent story of parting ways with a band member. ‘I Will Travel’ delivers sonorous and almost celebratory brass in the vein of Beirut, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Phoebe Bridgers. Yet, all of that is so plaintive and fragile that we can barely use the prefix “pop” or expressions like “upbeat rhythms”. Considering the gorgeous arrangements and the sincere and highbrow-y approach of the collective, much of that is still sometimes boring to listen to. 

I bet some admirers of their early work like ‘How Cool Are You?’ or ‘Cut Your Hair’ will be slightly disappointed due to the lack of craziness, extravagance, and youthful innovation in their new offering. “Where’s the ‘disco’?” they would ask. Basically, the only element remaining unchanged is Si’s gothic, The 69 Eyes-esque melodramatic vocals that can be both poignant and resolute at the same time. However, Walt Disco now aims to reach a more thoughtful audience. “We make music for anyone open-minded”, notes drummer Jack Martin. By revisiting past memories, they mark their changes and move forward — from an unpredictable cabaret-pop outfit to a more self-confident and self-sufficient band.

Walt Disco has vast potential that could easily be enough for a long and fruitful run from their own The Man Who Sold the World to Blackstar. Still, they have to figure out how to manage their talents to squeeze out really outstanding material. And it’s better to start with a page on Wikipedia, right? Musicians without one seem as if they do not exist in the mass consciousness. I hope that after this review, that annoying oversight will be fixed.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.