The Paintings On Your Wall Say Gambler! Gambler! - Peter Black (Citadel)
It might be apt to drop in some Dylan to catch your attention from the get-go (“There’s something happening here and you don’t know what it is/ Do you, Mr Jones?”) but it’s not necessary. Cutting to the chase, Peter Black is using melodies and colouring here to make a solo album that’s his most captivating to date.
“Peter Black” is his preferred moniker for this album but, let’s face it, you and me are always going to lapse into familiarity and tag him as “Blackie” from the Hard-Ons and Nunchukka Superfly. “The Paintings…” is his third full solo album and as far removed from his other bands as you could imagine.
Someone on the Interwebs said this was Blackie’s lullaby album and I’ll go with that. There’s a whimsical air to many of the songs that Jonathan Richman would be struggling to match. Strings, upright bass, drums, banjo, piano and whatever else suits the mood are brought into play.
“God Is On My Side” invokes a modestly sized children’s choir to send a message that “you shit him to tears.”
It’s generally lilting, pretty stuff, bobbed and buffeted along on the rise and fall of Blackie’s distinctive sing-song vocal. There are no rules. The song titles are often incongruous when your hear the tunes (“Blood Soaked Sidewalk” anyone?) This album is the manifestation of a man with too many songs in his head who spends his spare waking hours writing them all down.
Which isn’t to infer any lack of quality. These songs are riddled with more hooks than the jacket pockets of a fisherman with memory lapses. You won’t prick your finger on any of them. The melodies seep their way into the songs and cosy up to stay. Even a song with some underlying regret like “Observed And Observed” is swathed in tunefulness.
The glaring exception to all the niceties is a dark instrumental, “The Corridor Song.” When he’s not writing songs Blackie is a taxi driver and this one recalls the picking up of an elderly passenger from an especially creepy home. It would be perfect on a film noir soundtrack.
Chris Townend’s light-handed production is perfect.
A lot of this stuff isn’t such a stretch. Slip inside a few of the more up tempo tunes like “Water Pistols” and you could hear the Hard-Ons blasting them out in their more melodic pop moments. The Beatles could have appended “Silly Thing” to “Sergeant Pepper’s.” No, seriously.
There might need to be a shedding of preconceptions for some people to get into “The Paintings…” It also might attract those unfamiliar with Blackie’s antecedents. That wouldn’t be a bad thing either.