Saturday, 18 October 2008
The Peth- 'The Golden Mile' (1/9/08 Strangetown)
Perhaps this review is more suited for the Heats and the Closers of this world, concerning, as it does, the man largely known as 'Sienna's ex.' If you don't understand that, then good for you, but we're talking Rhys Ifans, he who paraded his pants in front of Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. It also features Daffyd from Super Furry Animals (a band Rhys was briefly lead singer for, back in the day, fact fans), so, you know, maybe it has some musical merit too?
The opening 2 tracks of the album promise much. 'Half A Brain' starts with a slow build of synths, before breaking out into dirty electro riffs, before melding into a chorus that sounds all 70s rock. If the refrain was better, it might have worked. 'Shoot On Sight' works much better, with a strutting bassline and portentous synths creating some truly galactic rock, and easily the best track of the record. '69 Fanny Street' almost matches it, but the melodies just tip the wrong side of the derivative/brilliant seesaw.
Maybe it's the Welsh accents, or the involvement of Daffyd Ieuan, but 'Let's Go Fucking Mental' sounds a lot like Super Furry Animals, but if they were shaved of all the little lumps and bumps that make them interesting. This sets up the theme for the rest of the album, songs that ape their influences successfully, but never surpass them.
'Turbotank' recalls Oasis at their bloated worst, chugging away , a rusty old schooner patched and worn out. The lyrics recall the Gallaghers primary school platitudes with lines like “Zero hero, leading me astray, cos you love me, yeah yeah yeah.” Ifans may be able to act up a storm (ie his Peter Cook take) but get him to sit down with pen and paper, and shit spills out. Witness “talk to me cos I don't understand ya, talk to me from your sunset veranda” that opens Sunset Verandah. The only thing that can be said in that song's favour is that the keyboards in the back of the picture sound a little bit like 'Baba O'Riley' by the Who.
The songs are filled with cavernous guitars, foot firmly pressed on epic, but it just feels like you're listening to the songs through the drug haze that 'The Golden Mile' was clearly recorded through. It's all trying to bring to mind 'Screamadelica', but it all to often conjures up memories of the tedium of slow paced Britpop at its worst, and the lack of ideas inherent in British rock n roll.
One song that manages to bring the fun is 'Last Man Standing', with the great couplets of “If I only had my crackpipe, it just might have kept me sane, instead of picking up the toaster, and toasting half my brain.” The song appears an ode to Ifans's well documented wastrel ways, but the driving riffs and joyous atmosphere don't fail to bring a smile.
“Everything I do you hate it, break me down to almost nothing.” Cough Sienna, cough. “Every day I think about you.” These kind of lines, found on 'Stonefinger', might stuff more evidence into the bag marked 'Rhys Ifans is getting over his ex in a very public way' but the songs seem to suggest more a need to act the rock n roll star. The 'greats' of Britrock are summoned, for better or worse, and as catharsis, who knows, this project probably works. As artistic statement, as something of value outside tabloid interest, it probably doesn't.