Peter Perrett’s triumph at the last chance saloon

Peter Perrett"Don't call it a comeback/I've been here for years".

So said LL Cool J, in perhaps one of the best humblebrags ever put to audio. But how do you make a successful musical comeback? This doesn't apply to those who are happy to just play the old hits, to an audience drunk on nostalgia. That's pretty easy. Allow your original fans to feel young again for a night or two and be your own tribute band. There's nothing wrong with that approach per se, but it runs the danger of cementing your irrelevance to modern music. Still, with enough filthy lucre, you're unlikely to be kept up at night worrying.

It's when musicians return with all new material that things become interesting. Interesting and complicated. If the stars are right and everything falls into place, you get a comeback album as impressive as mbv. In a worst case scenario, you end up with Chinese bloody Democracy.

These kinds of questions must surely have been in Peter Perrett's mind as he put together How The West Was Won, his solo debut and first new music released in 20 years. And there's still the shadow of his past. Not only is Perrett best known as the former frontman of The Only Ones, to many people he's still only known for the (admittedly lovely) "Another Girl, Another Planet".

As a frame of reference, it's worth looking at some of his original peers who've made similar comebacks. Dan Treacy of the Television Personalities has returned on and off with achingly beautiful songs, but with the uncomfortable feeling that you're listening to a man having a mental breakdown on record. TV Smith (ex of The Adverts) spends his days as a singer-songwriter, with politically sharp observations on modern society. Jimmy Pursey is still Jimmy Pursey and seems quite all right with that. He's even reformed Sham 69.

The closest of that trio to Perrett is unquestionably Smith. Thankfully, despite his publicised personal issues, Perrett doesn't come across as broken enough to draw Treacy comparisons. And even more thankfully, he's not gone the Jimmy Pursey route of pretending it's still 1976 and nothing ever changes.

There are certain lines that can be traced back to The Only Ones. They were always more melodic than many of their punk contemporaries, and Perrett's ear for a tune remains firmly intact. The intelligence of The Only Ones is not only still there, but thriving, the singer's lyrical ability more impressive than ever. And that voice... Perrett's sardonic drawl is as affecting and exciting as the very first time I heard it.


But How The West Was Won is very much its own thing, and needs to be judged on that basis. It would have taken a lot to transcend Perrett's musical past, but the album manages to do so with ease. The title track sees Perrett skewer American imperialism with razor sharp precision, his wit making the song feel enjoyable rather than preachy.

Much of the rest of the album takes a more introspective turn, with a keen sense of self awareness combined with a talent for wry observations. "Hard To Say No" looks at Perrett's relationships with other people, and paints a picture of the people he's come across in his life. There's several love songs on the album ("An Epic Story", "C Voyeurger") written for his wife of 47 years, Zena. "Something In My Brain" is perhaps my favourite track on an album full of songs that could earn that accolade. With disarming honesty, Perrett looks at the choices he's made and the choices to come, and realises that he has to make a conscious decision to choose rock and roll.

According to Domino Records, Perrett has "a determination not to blow what could be his last chance". On the strength of this album alone, he's more then done enough to justify his place in the pop pantheon. For those readers who really liked "Another Girl, Another Planet" and want to explore The Only Ones further, you should pick up one of their albums. (Most will claim you should start with their eponymous debut album. They're wrong. Go with Even Serpents Shine instead.)

For everyone else, this is an album not to miss. And let's hope this comeback is a new beginning rather than a swan song. Perrett's talent is simply too powerful to let it slip from our grasp.

Release: 30th June 2017, Domino

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