How The West Was Won – Peter Perrett (Domino)
The Horniman Museum in South London is a monument to its founder's eccentricities. A giant stuffed walrus vies for space beside antique musical instruments. Medieval torture chairs sit next to a delightful selection of monk’s undergarments. Both horsehair and spiked.
They had a couple of live piranhas and a virtual history of pipe smoking. The Addams family would have felt right at home.
One unusual exhibition was a wheel of Chinese opium. It sat happily in its case for 80 years until some reprobate walked in, opened the case and vanished off into the English Autumn.
The legend shared by South London’s heroin users was the perpetrator was one, Peter Perrett. This wasn't based on fact. He just lived around the corner from the museum.
Given their similarities of style and taste, it was perhaps an easy temptation to wed Perrett to his near neighbour. Haven't I just explained his oeuvre without mentioning a chord?
As the '70s became the '80s, there were drug fiends, uber drug fiends and there was Peter Perrett. Let's face it. He made Johnny Thunders look like an all American boy.
Those of you still asking “who the fuck” are probably aware of his classic non hit “Another Girl, Another Planet” with that reasonably famous beat combo The Only Ones. I’ll award bonus points to anyone who names another of their songs.
I’m not knocking them. I have all their albums. The trouble is, you build a pop Everest and even the other peaks that tower over an abased opposition can go unnoticed.
Perrett was a romantic poet in a world of football hooligans and market forces. Doomed by bad habits and an unresponsive public, a sleeping beauty, he vanished behind the overgrown hedges of his Forest Hill home.
Most who remembered would have suspected he died under the radar, forgotten and unreported. His talent, though prestigious, never ticked off enough popular boxes to judge a TV talent show.
But the world turns.
Lately, word of acoustic performances and new songs began to filter through the internet. He might not be the biggest star in the firmament but there are enough obsessed true believers to justify a record contract. I found myself camped outside a record shop for the first time in a while.
The first Facebook responses to the video of title track “How the West was Won” were skewered towards the negative side of mixed. It's hard to say the song didn't fall off of the back of a “Sweet Jane” jam session.
Except that that criticism misses the point entirely. Why wouldn't the world's most eccentric Englishman filter his vision of modern America through a 40-year-old New York anthem?
It would be fairer to say the album's opener echoes Hendrix playing the "Star Spangled Banner". It captures a moment in time on a needle point with rape and pillage just a shot ago.
Apparent throw away lines about Kim Kardashian reflect modern culture, mixing lust and repulsion. And could it be that Perrett has learnt to place tongue in cheek?
And more. It captures that feeling of being othered as no album ever has.
This is easily Perrett’s best album since The Only Ones' debut. It may be better. I’ve only listened to it 15 times so I’m yet to be sure.
Okay. There's a Lou Reed Velvet shadow that hangs heavy. Is that the bass line of Sister Ray? Is that a deliberately on the nose rhyming couplet. Guilty as charged m’Lud.
Well that charge probably floats over seventy percent of popular music so we’ll let Pete off with a wrist slap. Besides, his romanticism comes from a purer less cynical place.
He’d do it all again just as long as he was doing it with you, baby.
I can't really recommend this album highly enough. It is the first necessary purchase album of 2017 - and by crikey it's been a long dry spell. Just listen to this.
So don't listen to my idiot ramblings. Just go out and buy the bloody thing.
(That should be five glorious bottles of fine red wine)