Peter Perrett – How The West Was Won – A Review

Believe the Hype? Peter Perrett has in the last 40 years released four albums, the last one in 1996. This album has been garnered with pretty much universal praise, and you’d expect it to do well in the music monthlies end of year polls on the back of these glowing write ups. More importantly the two tracks released pre-album are both, at worst, superb. It’s these two tracks that open the album.

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The title track is a drawling look at America rolling in on a George Harrison/Bob Dylan country style groove, Peters voice, half sung, half spoken springs from the speakers, up front in the mix and sounds magnificent. The lyrics cover everything from making suicide vests via internet instructions to a fascination with Kim Kardashians bum. It’s a great opening but for me it’s a warm up for the second single/track two. ‘An Epic Story’ is brilliant, it’s a romantic overture to Peters wife of nearly 50 years, Zena, who we hear has had to put up with a hell a lot over the years. ‘I’ll always be your man, No-one could love me the way you can, If I could live my whole life again, I’d choose you, every time’ are lines any man would be proud to write for their life’s muse. Honestly, track of the year, hands down. It’s a family affair too as Peters sons are in his wonderful band.

And then we’re on to the rest of the album, kept under wraps until the day of release. ‘Hard to Say No’ is a confessional rock track, well played, sung and lyrically guarded enough to get the listener engaged.  ‘Troika’ is tale of a complicated love affair involving three people, but at its heart Perrett is still devoted to his one true love, all backed by a wracked and faithful doowop backing. And Peter sounds great throughout, reviews have made much of the damage done to his voice through substance and general life abuse and how Peter has had to relearn to sing, and seriously, his vocal performance is top notch, recognisable, coherent and confident. Lyrically we’re not a million miles away from previous work, but there’s great focus and belief. The songs are about survival, re-emergence, defiance; but most of all devotion and true faith for Zena. This is an acerbic rock album that manages to be grateful, touching and sweet too. It’s no mean feat.

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There’s no let-up in quality either, no filler and no one song overstays it’s welcome, in fact the longer tracks seem shorter than they are, such are their hooks and the attention they demand. This is an old school album, 10 tracks, an A and a B side, and it’s relentless in a good way. And it’s an album that builds to a very strong finish too. ‘C Voyeurger’ is a creeping, tense ballad that a really displays a great craftmanship from a songwriter that (in terms of releases) does not have prolificacy to thank for helping hone his craft. ‘Something In My Brain’ tries to explain where Perrett is as far as state of mind is concerned in his current stage of life, ‘…I didn’t die, At least not yet, I’m still just about capable, Of one last defiant breath’. His life is pictured as an experiment on a rat, though at the end unlike the rat Peter has chosen life, defeating the obstacles placed in front of him and coming out in better shape with a new-found dedication to his life, love and art. And final track, ‘Take me Home’ brings together all the strings of Peters life and ties them together, ‘I couldn’t be what I wanted, You made me a better man’. And so ends a great, concise album, a triumph against the odds. A career best? Believe the hype, yes. And it leaves you wanting more, this could well be the last we see from Peter Perrett in terms of new music, but let’s hope not, it’s intriguing and natural to want to see where the man presented on this album is able to take himself in the future. But for now, Peter Perrett is home, a rock troubadour, revelling in the bosom of his family and looking forward in life.

10/10. Believe the Hype.

The 13th.5 – TDWS #21

The 13th.5 – TDWS #21 Podcast - This time round featuring, The The's new song (again), Beck sounding all oldie, a triple from the Trusted, a Lana Del Rey album preview, Radiohead's new old song, Norah Jones' tribute to Chris Cornell, BuckinghamMcVie, Martin Stephenson segued to Miley Cyrus, Arcade Fire, Muse, Liam Gallagher, Rufus Wainwright sings Stevie Wonder at the piano, a great new sweary one from Wolf Alice, a brand new Peter Perrett classic, Glen Campbell and the Cribs. 

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The 13th.4 – TDWS #20

The 13th.4 – TDWS #20 Podcast. 20 tracks and some natter. Public Service Broadcasting, Kendrick Lamar and U2, new album previews from Alison Moyet and Buckingham/McVie, The The, Peter Perrett, Beck and Granddaddy and Kevin Morby from Resistance Radio, Skids and Blondie, Miley Cyrus, Paul Weller and Stone Foundation, Marc Almond and Marlena Shaw.

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The 13th.3 - TDWS #19 Podcast

The 13th.3 - TDWS #19 Podcast - 20 tracks and some natter. A couple from The Trusted, Lana Del Rey, a pair from the Volstead Orchestra, Laura Marling, Lambchop sing Prince, Rosalie Cunningham sing The Beatles, At The Drive In, Brett Anderson, Steve Gunn sings The Smiths, JoBoxers, Madeline Peyroux and Rickie Lee Jones sing David Essex, two from Beck, Strand of Oaks sing Phish and The Stone Roses, The Everly Brothers and Radiohead. 

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The 13th.2 - TDWS #18 Podcast

Here be the 13th.2, TDWS #18. Within you will find, Underworld, the full length T2 tracks, The Jesus and Mary Chain album preview, Loads of anti trumpism from Gorillaz, The Arcade Fire, the new protest song from Depeche Mode, a further track from Ryan Adams new LP and Ryan sings Radiohead, Paul Weller's soundtrack song. New stuff from BNQT, Future Islands, Jarvis Cocker and Chilly Gonzales, and Goldfrapp. Benjamin Clementine sings Nick Drake, the Thames Delta's Cheap Joint, A couple from Martha Wainwright, U2 from the telly in 1982 and the mystery of Television and Brian Eno. 

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My daughter Amy, Martha Wainwright and me. 

The 13th - TDWS #17 Podcast

This is ‘The 13th’, or you might want to call it Thames Delta World Service #17. A new podcast for a new year. Enclosed within, Muse sing the Cramps, George Michael Sings the Beatles, Mark Kozelik sings Bowie, Bruce Springsteen sings U2 (with U2). There’s classic b-sides by the Stray Cats, Joe Jackson, Embrace and Suede. 2017 album previews from Laura Marling, Ryan Adams and Elbow. There’s also some Martin Stephenson and the Daintees, Paul Simon Unplugged, The early Pink Floyd, PJ Harvey, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy and Depeche Mode. And of course there’s Bowie.

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The Twelve Days of Bowie

The Twelve Days of Bowie

This coming 8th January would’ve been David Bowie’s 70th Birthday. So, let’s shake the seasonal cobwebs away with a dubiously seasonally linked ‘Twelve Days of Bowie’ call to action. Starting Wednesday 28th December finishing on the 8th January post your twelve most favourite Bowie songs and tag ‘30Day David Bowie Song Challenge’ and #12DOB so others can find your posts. 28th – 5th can be a bubbling under selection, some of your faves in no particular order. 6th -8th post your 3,2,1 so the great man’s birthday itself will find the internet chocca with Bowie’s finest. Post video links if you wish, but say a little as to what the song means to you or why it’s such a favourite. Tell your Bowie loving friends, spread the word!

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Martha Wainwright – ‘Goodnight City’ a review

This is Martha Wainwright’s fourth album of original songs since and including her 2005 eponymous debut, and until now her career highlight has arguably been 2009’s album of Edith Piaf songs. As a fan since her early releases I’ve always longed for an album that carried the quality of the early EP’s ‘Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole’ title track. And at long last here it is. Made with her long-time producer, collaborator, husband and father of her children, Brad Alberta, her powerful voice is given free rein to pour from these songs in the fluid, languid way that more often than not has seemed at an arm’s length away.

Opener ‘Around The Bend’ is an end of year mixtape cert, an organic, high on drama and melody with a bitter sweet lyric killer of a song. There’s a tip of the hat to Patti Smith, but it stamps Martha Wainwrights personality as the indisputable core of this album, a point that is driven home with ‘Franci’, a mother’s love song to her child. This kind of song can easily be mawkish without effort but this song avoids these pitfalls, mainly as it is such a wonderful tune and lyrically avoids becoming to sugary, despite it repeated refrain ‘Everything about you is wonderful’.

‘Traveller’ is song about a friend who passed way from cancer, bandmate Thomas Bartlett’s brother and in particular how dead people stay with us after they’ve gone. It’s touching and fragile, but powerful and understated too. It’s a fine piece of crafted songwriting and carries the line ‘And you won the race and you were furthest from last’ without making you cringe. ‘Look Into My Eyes’ is a family composition with Martha’s aunt Anna McGarrigle and cousin Lily, it floats over a trickling synth hook and a French refrain, with jazz infused piano and saxophone. The album is both contemporary in that it sounds fresh but timeless in that it could have been written and recorded and any time in the last forty years or so, something that only the best music can claim to pull off. ‘Before The Children Came Along’ is an autobiographical love song about Martha and husband Brad. Vocally it is supreme, it encompasses jazz, folk, art rock leanings and vocal gymnastics without a sideways glance and just as you wait to see where it takes you next ‘Window’ returns us to Martha’s children, this time eldest son Archangelo, a song written in response to his jealousy at Martha’s brother Rufus’ song about his younger sibling, ‘Francis’. The song moves around on a winding uncertain path but is infused with focus and purpose.

‘Piano Music’ is a poem by author and poet Michael Ondaatje (‘The English Patient’) set to music by co-producer Bartlett. It’s faintly Brechtian and sparse, a brief interlude and a thing of heavy beauty. ‘Alexandria’ follows, written by Beth Orton, I’d love to say it’s subject matter was the broken haven in ‘The Walking Dead’ but I‘d be making that up, so I won’t. ‘So Down’ is a guitar, bass, drum laden melodramatic rock song, with a Bowieesque sax gluing everything together. It’s a change of feeling and style for the album, but the voice remains strong and impressive, and the track is somehow another album highlight, a powerful, torrent of song, that threaten to burst the banks yet never quite reaches a level of panic required to push it over the edge.

‘One Of Us’ starts with piano and powerful crystal voice, it is classic songsmith balladry in the vein of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ and it has a drop dead spot on vocal. ‘Take the Reins’ is modern pop, over minimal beats, it has the ghostly feel of a latter-day Radiohead classic, and brings something completely different to the album, whilst meeting the quality set by all that’s preceded it. ‘Francis’ is the Rufus penned song for Martha’s youngest. It has Rufus’ stylings all over it, so much so you can almost hear him vocalising it. There is also a bonus track in some territories and it’s wonderful. A slow, smoky orchestral broody song, ‘Somehow’ is quite different in mood from much of the main album, but I wish it was on my UK CD, because it is splendid.

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And there it is, the one of the albums of the year that I’ve always wanted Martha Wainwright to put out is finally here. There are few records this year to touch this, and with this she truly steps out of Rufus’ shadow and becomes the Wainwright sibling to be bettered. A great collection.