Peter Perrett - How The West Was Won

by Kevin Orton Rating:10 Release Date:2017-06-30

I’ll never forget the day I first stumbled across the Only Ones. It was 1994 and I was on tour. I was in some Midwest college town record store, looking to score some Johnny Thunders. “We’re clean out,” the man behind the counter insisted. Instead, he recommended The Only Ones. I was hooked after one listen.

During their brief recording career (1978-80) The Only Ones not only blazed a trail of self-destruction but wrote the book on how to attract a cult following. Namely, by being true to themselves and not giving a flying fuck about what the rest of the world thought. All of which sums up Perrett’s ecliptic solo career. Put simply, there’s no singer-songwriter quite like Peter Perrett. Best described as the Rock & Roll answer to Baudelaire.

Instead of rising like a phoenix from the ashes of the Only Ones, Perrett took his cue from J. D. Salinger and retreated from the Music world. In doing so, he joined the ranks of Syd Barrett and Roky Erickson. Alive but living in memory. Plenty of ink has been shed on Perrett’s struggle with drug addiction. Those sordid details can be found elsewhere. If you ask me, the music is far more interesting.

After 16 years, Perrett suddenly resurfaced in 1996 with, Woke Up Sticky. A stellar return to form which the world predictably greeted with a shrug. Soon after, Perrett again disappeared. If Sticky eerily picked up up right where the Only Ones left off, I’m happy to report the same is true of How The West Was Won, Perrett’s first album in over 20 years.

“This is an allegorical tale, it don’t take prisoners, it don’t get bail,” Perrett divulges on ‘Something In My Brain’. And it’s an apt description of this long overdue long player.

The opening track greets you with some cheeky slide guitar. If anyone was in any doubt how the West was won, Perrett puts it you straight: “At the point of a gun”. He goes on to swoon over Kim Kardasian, confessing he could stare at her all day, “without ever wanting to see her from the front”. Then adds snidely, “God knows I love America”. True, threatening to suicide bomb Wall St. is hardly the stuff of commercial appeal. But Perrett has always been far more interested in the heart of darkness. “I don’t mean to devastate you,” he slyly apologies.

If the West was won at gunpoint, Perrett seems to advise taking the opposite course as a means of survival. What is most striking about this album are the love songs. From the man who penned, ‘The Immortal Story’, we get ‘The Epic Story’. “The hero’s death is tragic every time”, Perrett intones in his sardonic drawl. But fortunately for us, Perrett has never cast himself as the hero. “Our suffering is beyond any words”, he confesses, “it’s too late for repentance of sins.”

Speaking of repentance, Perrett seems positively unrepentant on, ‘Hard To Say No’. “You can’t please everyone before you go,” he offers.  Here and elsewhere, Perrett takes a cold hard look at the petard he’s hoisted himself on time and time again. But in Perrett’s hands, words have an uncanny knack for rising to metaphor and turning upon themselves. And unlike many who sing their diary, Perrett manages to wryly stand outside it all, taking in the paradox and incongruities.

Musically speaking, don’t come here expecting an Only Ones record. This is a family affair with Peter’s sons, James and Peter Jr. In this case, nepotism is a brilliant career move. Best known as Pete Doherty’s accomplices in, Babyshambles, the brothers take this opportunity to step out of the shadows and shine. Providing an inspired, dynamic and diverse musical palette for their father’s barbed wit. It’s clear from the first note, they’re as much a part of these songs as their father.


“The jigsaw pieces that you see are part of the catastrophe of a major work of art,” Perrett enthuses wryly on ‘Sweet Endeavor’. And that’s just what’s on offer here. At 65, not only has Perrett arrived late to his own party, he’s brought priceless gifts for anyone who's accepted the invitation. Of course, longtime fans need no introduction and won’t walk away disappointed. This is manna from Peter Perrett heaven. For the uninitiated, proceed immediately to ‘Another Girl, Another Planet’ and the Only Ones’ first two CBS albums.

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