Wednesday, February 14, 2018

You Better Dream: A Brief Review Of The New Pete Astor Album

The front-man of The Loft and The Weather Prophets is in the midst of a bit of a renaissance. Following on from 2016's Spilt Milk, Pete Astor is now back with a spry new record. One For The Ghost, out on Friday via Tapete Records, is another fine release for a guy who's quietly been building a stellar catalog as a solo artist as of late.

The twang-y "Water Tower" sees Astor joined by Pam Berry (Black Tambourine, Withered Hand, Glo-Worm) on backing vocals for one of his best singles in ages. The cut is an assured melding of U.K. indie with a hint of of Americana. Elsewhere, "Golden Boy" continues the fascination with Yankee styles, while the more natural title cut rides a hook reminiscent of mid-period Lloyd Cole and The Commotions stuff, all brainy pop being played by guys who want to be Gram Parsons almost as much as they want to be Lou Reed. The superb "Magician and Assistant" is clever without being pretentious, and very nearly the sort of thing Robert Forster would have killed to have written on one of his solo albums, while the gentle "You Better Dream" offers up the sort of easy and direct melodic hook that Astor perfected as leader of The Weather Prophets so many decades ago. At his very best here, like on the Go-Betweens-recalling "Tango Uniform", Astor manages to easily convey a kind of world-weariness that suits him well. Pete seems to have grown into his current guise, and the adoption of a trace of a country-and-western style seems natural for the most part, and less an artistic device.

It's important to note that one of Astor's partners on this record is James Hoare, from Ultimate Painting. That makes perfect sense as some of this sounds a bit like the music of that now-defunct band, a band that owed a huge debt to earlier British indie musicians like Astor himself. The rhythm section is from The Wave Pictures: Franic Rozycki (bass) and Jonny Helm (drums). And, of course, it's worth mentioning the presence of Pam Berry again as her subtle backing vocals add a real warmth to lots of One For The Ghost. This is a more obviously serious record, it seems, than the slightly-poppy Spilt Milk, but the charms here are richer ones.

One For The Ghost is out on Friday via Tapete Records.

More details on Pete Astor via his official website.

[Photo: Suzanne Ballhausen]