Peter Perrett has fulfilled quite the comeback story. Perrett was once the frontman of The Only Ones, a power-pop and new wave band best known for their 1978 hit “Another Girl, Another Planet”. But since their dissolution in the 1980s, he has faded into relative obscurity. Peter Perrett had succumbed to a crippling drug addiction that stalled his creativity for decades. But over time Perrett gained his sobriety, leading to a surprising solo album in 2017, a great success at the age of 65. His second solo effort, Humanworld, continues his introspective and human songwriting, honestly laying out his experiences with charming wit. Humanworld is equal parts muscular and emotive, a piece of art that fully engages Perrett’s newfound freedom.
Peter Perrett has a uniquely disinterested, sneering voice. This is demonstrated on the creeping intro track “I Want Your Dream”. Backed by jagged guitars and eerie synths, Perrett does his best to channel Nick Cave with a heightened sense of psychedelia. The track becomes more densely textured as it reaches its rousing conclusion. Perrett’s singing is complemented by some lovely female vocals. “Once Is Enough” sees Perrett exploring more territories of goth and post-punk. The seething side of Perrett’s voice is more tapped into here, while echoing keys and sinister guitars swell around him.
“Heavenly Day” is a sobering ballad. Twinkling guitars juxtapose Perrett’s downtrodden and unpolished voice. While still injecting ample amounts of heart into his performance, he sheds light on a true literary knack in his writing. With a wealth of detail, he is able to put the listener into a specific space and time; “The sun was incessant, not a cloud in the sky, the milky white skin on your glistening thighs.”
“Love Comes On Silent Feet” is unfortunately one of the more forgettable tunes on a record mostly consisting of solidly executed material. Twisted guitar leads carry this rolling garage rock number. The distorted instruments have a shoegaze nature to them not too unfamiliar with fans of Ride’s Going Blank Again (1992).
The impressionistic “The Power Is In You” opens up with some string pageantry. “The bells were ringing out for freedom,” Perrett exclaims with an endearing, melancholic delivery. With its more upbeat power pop runs, this tune is the more reminiscent of The Only Ones’ golden era. “Believe in Nothing” features a fist-pumping power chord skeleton giving a foundation to slinky strings and some grooving slide bass. Its dark strut is pushed forward with intense echoed guitars that give it its moving quality. It’s the best-textured song on the album. Perrett is indifferent and cynical. With a venom in his voice, he delivers the morose line “I’m going to sleep on a bed of nails, never to wake up.”
“War Plan Red” is Perrett at his most overtly political; “Stars and stripes and swastikas filled Madison Square Garden.” He is ferociously fed up with the far right movements threatening society. But instead of shouting his anger, he speaks plainly, coming across as a defeated observer of the disintegration all around him. “48 Crash” has a nostalgic Brit pop quality to it much in the style of The Verve. The grandiose choruses enchant much like the most rousing Oasis anthems.
“Walking In Berlin” channels glam era Lou Reed. Female vocals help produce some haunted harmonies. While the lyrics, much like the majority of this album, are very dark, the sunny instrumental arrangement might fool a listener not giving a full ear. “Love’s Inferno” finds Perrett showcasing some clear influences from both The Who and Tom Waits, with his gruff voice and swaying guitar. It’s a passionate ode to unrequited affection.
The last two tracks seem to run together as a cohesive pair – “Master Of Destruction” being the angered sendoff, whereas “Carousel” is a more inward and self-reflective companion. “You specialise in breaking hearts,” Perrett pleads on “Master Of Destruction”, “…don’t know why I keep returning.” It’s one of the more expressive and fun performances on the record. On the concluding “Carousel”, Perrett looks more towards himself, giving himself space from the breakup to understand his own faults. Light keys and guitar pepper the stripped-back tune. With an endearing crack in his voice, Perrett tearfully ponders the entropy of love.
Peter Perrett’s comeback is remarkable to watch. Rarely does a once revered artist return for a solo project – decades later – with this much conviction. He is no longer writing carefree, sing-a-long punk tunes. These are carefully orchestrated dirges evoking various emotions and feeling. He has experienced a lot of ups and downs in the past handful of decades, and his beautifully poetic lyrics do them justice.
Humanworld is released Friday 7th June via Domino Recording Company