Originally intended to be The Conqueror, part two of the concept album Battle which began with 2009's The Bachelor, Patrick Wolf changed the title of his fifth long player when his writing took him in a different direction. Still maintaining the theme that love can lift you up, Lupercalia is a brilliantly uplifting record that inspires immediate smiles with its brazen extravagance and unselfconscious sense of fun.
In stark contrast to The Bachelor's dour and embittered atmospherics, here Wolf reverts to the bubbly optimism of The Magic Position and increases it exponentially. A man with a strong gay fanbase, this is a fantastically camp record. Opening track 'The City' is driven by wonderfully cheesy 80s style saxophone, the strings circling 'Time Of My Life' reek of disco, while those on 'House' are like something you'd hear on an Abba record.
Lupercalia is strongest when it's in full swing, and that's most of its forty minute running time, but with his flawless tenor Wolf certainly knows how to carry a ballad. Pairing his deep, smooth tones with twinkling harp and dense orchestration, 'The Days' lulls with it simple waltzing rhythm, while 'Armistice' is genuinely rousing despite the fact that it is a tad overly highbrow. Based on the manx gaelic folk song 'The Blackbird' (or 'Chomreedhoo' in its native language), it brings together uncommon and intriguing instruments such as the glass and crystal cristal baschet and the traditional Amenian duduk to build an intense, ethereal ambience. It's just one example of Wolf's advanced experimental side. With his classical background, he has equally little trouble making unearthly electronics and traditional Indian style vocals sound completely at home together on the likes of 'William' and 'Slow Motion'.
As something of a prodigy with a most eccentric personality, it's impossible not to be charmed by Patrick Wolf, and Lupercalia is easily his most exhilarating album yet.