A New Wave survivor stays true to his muse
Artist: Peter Perrett
Label: Domino Records
★★★★ (4/5 stars)
After all the pouting and posturing procured by rock’s new breed of angry young insurgents in the mid to late ‘70s, surprisingly few punk survivors remain as insolent and indignant as they did during those initial days of rage. It’s something that makes former Only Ones frontman Peter Perrett somewhat of an outlier.
Of course, maturity often mellows any rage and resolve, but given their determination to upset the establishment and turn it on its ear, comfort and complacency didn’t necessarily seem inevitable.
Sadly, that optimism proved unfounded. Few members of that curmudgeonly class emerged with their resolve undeterred. Punk’s most promising voices are mostly silent, due to demise or the inevitable willingness to mingle with the mainstream. Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe are given to today’s current definition of wizened easy listening, Patty Smith’s occasional utterances are only tangential, Graham Parker has opted to mute his messaging, Paul Weller’s a grand old godfather and Lou Reed, the Ramones, Johnny Thunders, and so many other early upstarts now belong to the ages.
Given that dreary prognosis, it’s nice to find Perrett, the defiant voice of such a nihilistic new wave band as England’s the Only Ones, hasn’t succumbed to the commercial temptations that have muted so many of his contemporaries. It’s all the more remarkable considering the fact that Perrett very nearly succumbed to rock’s inevitable vices, including heroin and cocaine. He remained silent for several years at a time, reemerging under the auspices of occasional side projects and Only Ones reunions until 2017, when he released his belated initial solo album, How the West Was Won.
On his second LP for Domino, Perrett still sounds as stoic and sobering as ever. His deadpan vocals continue to recall Lou Reed in all its dry, despondent glory, and for much of Humanworld, his sophomore solo set, he sounds like someone who’s still keen to find his footing. The songs are frequently dire and dreary, and on understated entries like “I Want Your Dreams,” “Once Is Enough” and “Heavenly Day,” he projects a smooth croon that’s both deadpan and demonstrative, all at at the same time. The Bowie-esque delivery ingrained in “The Power of You” proves that point; indeed Perrett continues to possess the cool and charisma that’s so essential in order to endure. Perrett may not be so cocksure that he’s content to simply preen and posture, but his confidence is still clear, proving that he’s not about to temper his ways in order to simply reach a wider audience. Only Ones fans have reason to cheer, but those who weren’t overtly familiar with him before might not be lured on this record.
Still, judged on the basis of his insular blend of darkness and defiance, Humanworld is a triumphant piece of work, an uncompromised collection of terse requiems to the convulsive nature of modern life. An astute observer, Perrett uses his wry musings to cast a decisive middle finger to those that insist conformity is key. Ultimately he deserves praise for delivering his message with an irrefutable sense of purpose and passion.
VIDEO: Peter Perrett — I Want Your Dreams