Pete Astor - One For The Ghost

by Kevin Orton Rating:9 Release Date:2018-02-16
Pete Astor - One For The Ghost
Pete Astor - One For The Ghost

A new Pete Astor record is like a little note all too casually slipped under the door. The kind of thing that can brighten your day or make you ponder your existence. An ardent practitioner of less is more, Astor’s work has always had an unassuming charm. If you’ve never heard of Pete Astor, he’s best known as the front man for the legendary band, The Loft and later, The Weather Prophets. Personally, if there’s one thing I treasure more than The Rev Ola Loft compilation, Magpie’s Eyes (1982-1985), it’s the prospect of a new Pete Astor album.

His last, Spilt Milk was a welcome hello after a few years laying low. Fortunately, Astor hasn’t waited long to release another gem in, One For The Ghost. According to the maestro, “One evening, when I was enjoying my favorite red wine, I decided to pour an extra glass for people and times past. Soon it became a tradition, the name of a song and then an album”.

The album kicks off with a leisurely, meditative stroll. “He walks the town to prove that he exists,” Astor divulges in his unassuming manner. “Don’t know why.” It’s a song that raises more questions than it answers. An ambiguously wonderful way to kick off an album that nonchalantly tackles mortality and other bothersome questions. Fitfully accompanied by some tastefully jangly guitar, ‘Water Tower’ keeps the ball in the air. “Its my concrete flower,” Astor enthuses. Again, the reasons why and whom he is addressing, is something he’s content to keep under cuff. “It’s just another story, you and me.”

The title track is as catchy as its haunting. Beginning with Oscar Wilde’s immortal quip, “Either that wall paper goes or I”. It’s not only a song that touches on death and loss but also makes room for acceptance. Recognizing that part of loss is deciding to move on, ghosts and all.

‘Golden Boy’ is an album standout with a formidable melody and some hypnotic guitar reminiscent of one of Astor’s longstanding influences: Television. Despite the laid-back delivery, it’s a merciless dig at the vanity of being the next big thing. Another high light is, ‘Injury Time’. A gorgeous ballad notable for its begrudging compassion. “It’s not a pretty sight to see a grown man cry,” Astor sings, and it's the kind of line that can make you wince. Just the right dash of salt in an open wound. Elsewhere, ‘Magician’s Assistant’ doesn’t quite seem buy into optimism’s hype. And while, ‘Only Child’ may be about the shortcomings of being self-centered, it remains criminally irresistible.

The rueful, ‘Tango Uniform’ is a catchy little ditty about imminent death. “Say goodbye, the endless sleep is near. Pack up your things, get ready to disappear.” By contrast, ‘You Better Dream’ finds futility and hope running neck and neck.

Things come to a poignant conclusion with ‘Dead Fred’. Truly a toast to a gentle life well lived.  “Everyone agreed he had been a very nice man, and then they went on their way.” It’s the kind of sentiment that could have come from the pen of Ray Davies in his prime. A fitting end to an album that doesn’t call too much attention to itself, and yet, if given the time of day, reveals much. 

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