Bill Pritchard is an artist who, I'm happy to report, has made a return. The musician, famous mostly for his 1989 LP on Nettwerk, is due to release a new album, Mother Town Hall, on Tapete Records this Friday. It is a warm record, full of pep and heart and it is, quite surprisingly, a bit more upbeat than some of Pritchard's earlier work. That's sort of something that made me raise an eyebrow and smile when I played this one.
Diving into Mother Town Hall, I was entering a world of buoyant indie-pop hooks. "Mont St. Michel" is as good as anything on recent Lilac Time albums and every bit as rollicking. "Deja Vu Boutique" is more of a ballad, recalling both Bowie and Ian Hunter in some odd way, while "Heaven" unwinds like a classic Lloyd Cole cut, full of an equal amount of wit and melody. "September Haze" has a slow-burn hook that made me think of late-period Aztec Camera. Every bit as confident as Roddy Frame, Bill Pritchard seems to have hit a sort of artistic peak on Mother Town Hall, forging ahead of his earlier stuff into new territory like "Victorious" which -- and I mean this in the best possible way -- sounds a tiny bit like some of Morrissey's recent material.
Similar in terms of general delivery and presentation to both Moz and The Wild Swans, this sort of stuff tends to get called chamber pop and yet that term makes it sound serious and morose. If anything, Bill Pritchard has loosened up and suffered no loss of quality. The things that made his work so memorable when I was 22 are all still here. Pritchard is older and wiser and yet...he somehow sounds looser on this release. Mother Town Hall works as a reminder of Pritchard's talents and a fine album on its own terms. If you never heard his stuff before, that's okay 'cause this one will make you a new fan of the guy. Superbly tuneful and expertly performed and arranged, the songs on Mother Town Hall are sublime little indie gems full of charm and grace.