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Peter Perrett (of The Only Ones)

Peter Perrett (of The Only Ones)

The Molochs (solo set)

Sun, Mar 11, 2018

Doors: 7:30 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

$25.00

This event is 21 and over

Peter Perrett (of The Only Ones)
Peter Perrett (of The Only Ones)
HOW THE WEST WAS WON

In the hands of certain songwriters, a story of resurrection and redemption might ring a little hollow. Worse, it might sound like pseudo-messianic psychobabble. But when the songwriter is Peter Perrett, the usual rules have never applied. Perrett, whose incisive songcraft and sardonic drawl made him one of the most distinctive voices of the Seventies (and briefly, the Nineties), has indeed got a tale of resurrection and redemption to tell. And even if he’s telling it with copious doses of his trademark deadpan wit, the miracle is that he’s telling it at all.

Perrett made his reputation in The Only Ones (1976–1981) by writing about – and living – a life of the utmost decadence without worrying too much about the consequences. “I always flirt with death,” began his most famous song (‘Another Girl, Another Planet’), “I look ill but I don’t care about it.” It was an exotic universe full of strange creatures, but an incredibly dangerous one to inhabit. Not once but twice, Perrett retreated into a hermetic haze and transmitted nothing but radio silence for ten years. The two decades of his life that were surrendered to drug addiction were his own business, of course, but they were music’s loss as well.

What a fantastic surprise it is, then, to hear an older, wiser Perrett singing of having music back in his bloodstream again. Take a listen to ‘Something In My Brain’, a song towards the end of his debut solo album HOW THE WEST WAS WON: it’s about making good choices, bad choices and ultimately the only choices that will guarantee survival. All too conscious of his mortality in 2017, Perrett no longer views illness as an occupational hazard or death as a source of amusement, like that swaggering young existentialist of 1978. When he gets to the line about being “just about capable of one last defiant breath,” he’s not exaggerating. But if his lung power is depleted, his other powers – his intuitive feel for words; his flair for idiosyncratic metaphors; his mordant wit – are still as sharp as razors. The image of the laboratory rat being forced to choose between food and crack is as darkly comical as anything Perrett ever wrote for The Only Ones. By the time he steps aside to allow his son Jamie to play an emotional guitar solo, ‘Something In My Brain’ (“an allegorical tale”) has become a double-sided epiphany. Peter Perrett has rediscovered the importance of rock’n’roll, and rock’n’roll has rediscovered the importance of Peter Perrett. It will surely be hailed as one of the standout tracks on HOW THE WEST WAS WON, his new album on Domino, the comeback that nobody saw coming.

The songs on HOW THE WEST WAS WON examine complex emotional terrain and extreme human behaviour, shot through as always with wry self-analysis. In a sense the album is a Perrett family affair: there are love songs (“An Epic Story”, “C Voyeurger”) from Peter to his wife Xena, and their two sons, Jamie and Peter Jr., play lead guitar and bass respectively. But there are also songs where Perrett opens his curtains and stares out into a much-changed world. The title track finds him railing against American imperialism and celebrity culture. “Man Of Extremes” despairs of the “sick society” that sends some people into a life of crime. The mean streets of “Sweet Endeavour” are a frightening place to find yourself alone with your demons.

Perrett makes each song on HOW THE WEST WAS WON sound natural and effortless, as though he were continuing a briefly interrupted conversation rather than picking up the threads of a solo career that faltered more than 20 years ago. He claims to have barely touched a guitar in the decade between his 1996 album Woke Up Sticky and the 2007 reunion of The Only Ones; with Perrett, a hiatus could so easily turn into a hibernation. Think of the number of prime ministers and presidents that have come and gone since the songs on Woke Up Sticky were written in the early Nineties. Yet Perrett’s familiar voice sounds like it simply stepped out of the room for a few minutes and popped back in again.

“There’s this myth about the Muse,” he says. “I don’t think there’s a Muse that appears and disappears – it’s just a question of wanting to do it. If I play a guitar, I can’t help writing songs. Sooner or later I’ll play a chord sequence that will put a tune in my head. It’s just a case of finding the reason to pick up the guitar in the first place.”

As recently as two years ago, Perrett wasn’t planning to record again. Xena Perrett, learning via her Facebook page that music venues were interested in booking Peter for solo gigs, lined him up a small tour in the summer of 2015 – Amsterdam, London, Manchester and Bristol – where he appeared onstage with Jamie, Peter Jr., violinist Jenny Maxwell, drummer Jake Woodward and keyboard player Lauren Moon. The gigs attracted passionate audiences and glowing reviews. Perrett may sometimes be gone, but he is never forgotten. It was noticed that he was playing one or two new songs, and that they were seriously good.

By the end of 2015 Perrett had management, a record deal lined up with Domino, a respected producer on board (Chris Kimsey) and a sense of renewed purpose that made him feel 25 again. So fired-up was he that, as he waited for contracts to be drawn up and signed, he lost patience and drove to Konk recording studio to begin work on the album without Kimsey. One of the songs he recorded that week was the title track. Another was the beautiful closing song, “Take Me Home”. And the third was ‘Living In My Head’, which he and his band had debuted live in the summer. A long and powerful piece, it features a scorching guitar solo from Jamie, who co-wrote the song with his father.

“Normally, when people think of musicians getting their kids into the band, they think of nepotism. But friends have told me that they can’t believe how much feeling my children have for my music”, says Perrett. “It must be something in their genes. I mean, I never played my guitar around the house – for decades I never touched it.”

If Jamie and Peter had an unconventional childhood, imagine their emotions as they back their father on a handful of songs that celebrate their parents’ equally unconventional marriage. “An Epic Story” is an unqualified love song to the girl Peter first met in 1969 and still lives with 48 years later. They have had an extraordinary life together, the runaway teenagers.

Whatever their provenance, the songs for HOW THE WEST WAS WON came thick and fast, whittled down from 40 to 23 and then to ten. Perrett remembers Chris Kimsey urging him at one point not to write any more because there wouldn’t be room for them on the album. But Perrett, with energy in his blood and something in his brain, found it difficult to stop. Has he recaptured the momentum of his halcyon youth? One has to be careful about using words like ‘plans’ and ‘strategies’ where Perrett is concerned, but at this stage in his life – he turns 65 in April – the outlook appears brighter than for many, many years. He has a fire burning inside him again, and a determination not to blow what could be his last chance.

Peter’s story is a cautionary tale. But that doesn’t mean it’s a cry of woe. And nor does its redemptive arc need to be sentimentalised. “It’s too late for repentance of sins,” he tells us on ‘An Epic Story’, suggesting that if he could do it all again, he really would do it all again. And perhaps he would once again arrive at this moment: drug-free, nicotine-free, addiction-free and able to occupy his days with the freedom of music. “Drugs are so boring,” he says, as if the realisation has just hit him. “Musicians use their drug use as a badge of honour these days, but to me, music and drugs don’t go together at all. It’s either one or the other. And from now on, it’s this.”

Because he has been uncontactable and AWOL for much of his adult life, even seasoned Perrett-watchers will have been caught unawares by HOW THE WEST WAS WON. It’s been a stop-start career derailed by hiatuses that turned into hibernations, and then into full-scale vanishings. It all conspired to deny Perrett the momentum to put together the significant body of work that his talent deserved. Maybe, just maybe, it could happen now. It’s great to have him back.
The Molochs (solo set)
First, let’s meet Moloch. You remember him, right? The ancient god, the child eater, the demander of sacrifice, the villain in Ginsberg’s Howl (and also real life) and now the personal antagonist of singer and songwriter Lucas Fitzsimons, who named his band the Molochs because he knew he’d have to make sacrifices to get what he needed, and because he always wanted a reminder of the Ginsbergian monster he’d be fighting against. And so this is how you make a record right now: you fight for every piece, and when Moloch takes apart your relationships and career potential and leaves you sleeping on couches or living in terrifying apartments and just about depleted from awful people involving you in their awful decisions, you grab a bottle of wine (and laugh at the cliché) and put together another song. And once you do that eleven hard-won times in total, you get a record like America’s Velvet Glory: honest, urgent, desperate and fearless because of it.
Fitzsimons came to his calling in an appropriately mythic way, born in a historic city not far from Buenos Aires and raised in L.A.’s South Bay—just outside of Inglewood—where he was immersed in the hip-hop hits on local radio. (Westside Connection!) The summer before he started middle school, a close friend got an electric guitar, and Fitzsimons felt an irresistible inexplicable power: “I'd go back home and I’d look up guitar chords on the internet—even though I had no guitar—and just imagine how I WOULD play them. I was slowly getting obsessed.” When he was 12, his parents took him back to Argentina, and on the first night, he discovered a long-forgotten almost-broken classical guitar in the basement of his ancestral home: “It sounds made-up, but it’s true,” he says. “I didn't put the guitar down once that whole trip—took it with me everywhere and played and played. When I got back to L.A., I bought my first guitar practically as the plane was landing.”
This started a long line of bands and a long experience of learning to perform in public, as Fitzsimons honed intentions and ideas and tried to figure out why that guitar seemed so important. After a trip to India in 2012, he returned renewed and ready to start again, scrapping his band to lead something new and uncompromising. This was the true start of the Molochs: “It didn't make any sense to not do everything exactly the way I wanted to do it,” he says. “I was so shy and introverted that singing publicly sounded like a nightmare come true. But I didn't have a choice—I heard something inside of me and I needed to be the one to express it.”
The first album Forgetter Blues was released with Fitzsimons’ guitarist/organist and longtime bandmate Ryan Foster in early 2013 on his own label—named after a slightly infamous intersection in their then-home of Long Beach—and was twelve songs of anxious garage-y proto-punk-y folk-y rock, Modern Lovers demos and Velvet Underground arcana as fuel and foundation both. It deserved to go farther than it did, which sadly wasn’t very far. But it sharpened Fitzsimons and his songwriting, and after three pent-up years of creativity, he was ready to burst. So he decided to record a new album in the spirit of the first, and in the spirit of everything that the Molochs made so far: “I wanted to spend less time figuring out HOW we were gonna do something and just actually do it.”
The result is America’s Velvet Glory, recorded with engineer Jonny Bell at effortless (says Fitzsimons) sessions at Long Beach’s JazzCats studio. (Also incubator for Molochs’ new labelmates Wall of Death and Hanni El Khatib.) It starts with an anxious electric minor-key melody and ends on a last lonesome unresolved organ riff, and in between comes beauty, doubt, loss, hate and even a moments or two of peace. There are flashes of 60s garage rock—like the Sunset Strip ’66 stormer “No More Cryin’” or the “Little Black Egg”-style heartwarmer-slash-breaker “The One I Love”—but like one of Foster’s and Fitzsimons’ favorites the Jacobites, the Molochs are taking the past apart, not trying to recreate it.
You can hear where songs bend, where voices break, where guitars start to shiver and when strings are about to snap; on “You And Me,” you can almost hear Lou Reed’s ghost call for a solo, and on “I Don’t Love You,” you get that subway-sound guitar and find out what happens when Jonathan Richman’s G-I-R-L-F-R-E-N goes wrong. And of course there’s the charismatic chaos of bootleg basement-tape Dylan—always Dylan, says Fitzsimons—and the locked-room psychedelia of Syd Barrett, especially on “Charlie’s Lips,” Fitzsimons’ ode to—or antidote to—those times when he felt the bleakness completely: “Then a bird lands on a branch nearby, you hear leaves fluttering, you hear a child laughing … all of a sudden things don't seem so bad anymore.”
So Moloch might still be out there, devouring his sacrifices, but the Molochs are still fighting, too. And that’s why Fitzsimons picked the band name—it’s so he remembers what he’s up against. He’s not celebrating the destroyer of youth and individuality and creativity, he says: “I’m just keeping him in sight so that he doesn't win.”
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