NO REGRETS: Writings on Scott Walker is a collection of 14 papers on various aspects of the singer's career, edited with an introduction by Rob Young of The Wire, a magazine which has done more to champion Walker's later career than any other. NO REGRETS covers Walker's ouput from his mid-1960s music with the Walker Brothers to his 2006 album THE DRIFT. Walker's early career as a teen idol is mentioned in passing in Young's introduction, but not explored in detail. The collection was published in early 2012 and just missed the opportunity to discuss his most recent album BISH BOSCH.
For the most part, each paper covers a different set of albums. Anthony Reynolds writes on the Walker Brothers era. Nina Power talks about the SCOTT and SCOTT 2 albums, while Derek Walmsley treats SCOTT 3 and SCOTT 4. Ian Penman surveys the TV series album, 'TIL THE BAND COMES IN and THE MOVIEGOER. Walker's mid-1970s forays in country music are recognized as a creative black hole in his career, but Amanda Perusich finds value in the albums ANY DAY NOW, STRETCH and WE HAD IT ALLL.
Biba Kopf covers in a single chapter the entire Walker Brothers reunion, which produced the albums NO REGRETS, LINE and NITE FLIGHTS, only the latter of which is of lasting value due to Scott Walker's four contributions that announced a new avant-garde sensibility. Damon Krukowski tries to decipher the surrealistic lyrics of CLIMATE OF HUNTER. It was in the 1990s that late-period Scott Walker started to get more press coverage, and so the album TILT is discussed in two contributions. One is Brian Morton's paper "The Significant Other", while the other is Richard Cook's 1995 interview with Scott Walker, originally published in The Wire.
David Stubbs looks at the various film and stage collaborations that followed, and for THE DRIFT there are a full four papers: Chris Sharp, the head of the 4AD label, reminisces on the hectic schedule of making that album. David Toop, generally known as a writer on contemporary classical music, lists his reactions to the various songs of this exceedingly bleak work. There follows Rob Young's 2006 interview with Walker, again originally published in The Wire. Finally, Stephen Kijak talks a little about how he managed to make his "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" documentary at the same time that Walker was recording THE DRIFT.
I consider myself a Scott Walker superfan, but I was rather disappointed with NO REGRETS. The problem is not entirely the fault of the authors, but Scott Walker has guarded his privacy carefully and rarely speaks about his lyrics, which means that there isn't a whole lot of analysis to be done without going off into utter speculation or deconstructionist wankery. Most of the assertions about the late career either cite Kijak's "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" documentary, which passionate fans are likely to have already seen, or even the Wikipedia article on Scott Walker. Toop's article is especially tiresome; while it does talk about THE DRIFT, Toop generally just pulls all manner of other 20th century artists into the mix through free association while listening to Walker's work.
However, I did glean a few facts from this release that help me appreciate Scott Walker's work a bit better (e.g. that CLIMATE OF HUNTER has a symmetrical structrure, and the song "Hand Me Ups" is about a TV presenter and his children). After reading Perusich's article, my opinion that Walker's mid-1970s output is drunken rubbish hasn't changed, but I found her observation on the changing demographics of the country music audience (and its arrival in the UK) interesting.