Saturday, 30 January 2016

Spilt Milk and Bad Teeth

Bad teeth are underrated. I've always claimed that a girl's beauty is strongly enhanced by bad teeth. Bad teeth is one of the most explicit symbols of hidden sexuality. Likewise, bad teeth and art have always worked together. The greatest literary stylists of the 20th century, Joyce, Nabokov and Martin Amis, all suffered from having terrible teeth.

So when the camera gave us the first meaningful close-up of Pete Astor doing his new single, "Mr. Music", I knew it would be good. And oh yes, there's also the small matter of Pete Astor being one of the greatest underappreciated songwriters in Britain.

The intimate connection started when I first heard the chorus of "Almost Falling In Love". I was so moved I felt I had to write a short story called "Almost Falling", which I duly did in a matter of two days. Then there was a film about Alan McGee (who signed Astor's first band, The Loft, back in the 80s), a characteristically snide dismissal in Luke Haines's Bad Vibes memoir and, a few years ago, Pete Astor's songwriting masterpiece, Songbox. The album remains a special treat to this day, one that I only play occasionally and almost religiously to rediscover the melodic wit and subtle vocal hooks. The sort of album that does not need a follow-up.

But God knows I'm happy he is back. With vocals that sound like a less whimsical Peter Milton Walsh and with vibes and melodies reminiscent of The Velvets minus perversity. Again, it's the quiet brilliance that proves so endearing.

Pete Astor's new album, Spilt Milk, is never overwhelming and it doesn’t need to be. The very title makes no sense if you live in 2016 and want to recapture some relevance. But Pete is long past recapturing what has always seemed so elusive. Spilt Milk is just a matter of ten new songs. Obviously, these beautiful, unabashedly inconspicuous tunes won't set the world on fire and I feel that Songbox will forever remain his ultimate statement (I still cry when I hear "Mistress Of Song"), but all you need to know is this: Spilt Milk is great songwriting at its purest.

Essential from Pete Astor: