If you’re a Peter Perrett fan, you should be happy How The West Was Won simply exists, regardless of how good it is or isn’t. After achieving cult status via three great albums with The Only Ones from 1978-1980 he’s largely been watching the decades pass from the sidelines, a victim of the drug addiction that he wrote about in underground classics like “The Beast” and “Another Girl, Another Planet”. He’s resurfaced sporadically – a brief spell in the mid-90s as The One, and some gigs with The Only Ones a decade ago – however, How The West Was Won is the first time in a long time that Perrett’s given us an indication that he’s in good enough shape to give a music career another go.
All the years of hard living are evident in his voice, though Perrett – now a newly minted senior citizen, and reportedly suffering from C.O.P.D. – wasn’t exactly Pavarotti as a young man, so the impact isn’t all that damaging. If his voice is less forceful, Perrett’s lyrics are still as sharp as ever. The opening title track, where he details his love of all things American over music derived from “Sweet Jane”, will certainly turn a lot of heads with its mentions of Kim Kardashian, J-Lo and terrorism, yet I’m more interested in his ruminations on romance (“An Epic Story”, “Troika”), addiction (“Hard To Say No”) and his struggles to get through life (“Living In My Head”, “Something In My Brain”). He’s led an interesting life (Nina Antonia’s biography, The One and Only is highly recommended), and he lets his experiences inform his songs, which is exactly what you want. The backing band, helmed by his sons Peter Jr. and Jaime, is a huge problem though. From what I’ve read they wanted the album’s focus to be their father’s lyrics and voice, but the music isn’t just unobtrusive, it’s aggressively boring. It wouldn’t be fair to expect the next generation of Perretts to play with the same fire as The Only Ones, but they sound like they could be writing for any ol’ generic singer-songwriter. Their benign playing manages to undermine all the good things Perrett brings to the table and ultimately sink the album. Hopefully Perrett finds more suitable backing for his next outing…and he better not wait another twenty years either!