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A review of...
Spilt Milk by Pete Astor
Pete Astor goes back to basics on this homely solo effort
After hanging around in the left field for several years, making numerous experimental noises which seemed a million miles away from his seminal work with The Loft and The Weather Prophets (early, under-valued members of the fledgling Creation Records stable), Pete Astor seems to have found a second wind for crafting nice and simple songs. This is an album that's as warm as it is witty, the music is understated and entrenched in a 1970s haze of classic hooks and melodies. A lot of what makes this work could perhaps be put down to the way it was recorded: on half inch tape in the home studio of James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, The Proper Ornaments, Veronica Falls). Hoare also played guitar, bass, drums and keyboards on this record, “he was an amazing band”, said Astor of his latest collaborator.
The album drifts between contemplative ballads (which often address the songwriter's current standing as a man in his mid-50s), and more up-tempo ditties which tend to look backwards, at least in terms of the influences they take on board. "Mr. Music" is, unsurprisingly, steeped in the West Coast sunshine of The Byrds, as is the wonderfully catchy album opener "Really Something".
On tracks like "My Right Hand" you can see why Astor has been such a lasting influence on artists like Darren Hayman and even James Hoare himself in bands like Ultimate Painting. There's a nod and a wink to the listener, and a sense of humour that in less competent hands could be seen as throwaway, but at the same time there's a pointed seriousness to the songs which makes things stick. Just take the introduction of the one note piano accompaniment in this song, it's so simple and not at all new, but it's so very perfectly timed. Someone should write a review on that piano note. It's brilliant.
On the whole it's a pleasurable 40 minutes, and whilst Pete Astor doesn't seem to be at a period in his career where he's pushing down boundaries, with Spilt Milk, he's written and recorded his most direct and accessible material in years, proving once again that he's a lost voice in the world of self-deprecating indie crooners.
"Good Enough" - Astor shows an incredible knack of talking about unrealised DIY projects (on the surface at least) and making them sound like the most heartbreaking thing in the world.