No Dangerous Gods in Tunnel - Peter Black (Citadel)
His nearest and dearest might know him as Peter but you'll most likely recognise him as Blackie from the Hard-Ons. Not that this, his second solo album, bears much relation to that esteemed band's fast and furious output. "No Dangerous Gods…" is off-the-wall, whip-smart and often lush acoustic rock that suggests Syd Barrett more than Sid Vicious.
We've always known Blackie had a hard-on for a good melody, although it was usually dressed up in heavily distorted guitar and delivered at the velocity of a six-year-old birthday party at Maccas after a collective sugar overdose. Here's proof positive that the man's a dab hand at imaginative arrangements.
"Cloud Nine" is a lilting duet with Michelle Madden that's as elegiac as they come with a strong hint of Ray Davies. Strings mix it with vocal and lyrical weirdness on "Bus Catcher". "Looking For The Devil In Every Detail" is similarly fluffy but provoking. The combined effect is as compelling as it is stripped back and charming enough to crack open even the hardest old punk's heart.
"All Is Forgotten" is almost fragile in its delivery. It's hard to reconcile a song like that with the brutal punishment that Blackie's other band, Nunchukka Superfly, metes out but surprises are half the fun. Blackie visits doo-wop in "Under Hipsupposedness" and flicks the switch to scuzzy country rock in "Pity Ya Heart's a Bubble 'Cause I'm Such a Prick". Really, there's no need to apologise.
You may not be aware that Blackie was bashed senseless while driving a cab about the time this was released. The fundraising benefits and media coverage that followed were, I'm guessing, indirectly responsible for a a substantial story about him and "No Dangerous Gods" turning up in Rolling Stone Australia, of all places. Nice to see but you can't help think that a record this good shouldn't need a near tragedy to attract attention.
The Syd Barrett comparison earlier is entirely deliberate. I'd rate "No Dangerous Gods…" much more highly than "The Madcap Laughs" which had an element of "come and watch the train smash" to it. From the clever cover art of a God in a trucker cap to the Boston allusion inside, Peter Black's no more mad than bad and this album deserves your closest attention.