Album Review: Peter Perrett – “How The West Was Won”
Former frontman of The Only Ones, there’s a good argument that Peter Perrett was arguably Britain’s answer to Johnny Thunders back in the day. Like Thunders in his ’80s solo era, The Only Ones were the narcotic-fuelled hopeless doomed romantics of the new wave scene and burned brightly during their five-year existence, before imploding in the early ’80s amid a cyclone of bad business decisions and drug problems.
After the group’s split, Perrett would go into an extended hibernation, first cultivating and then thankfully beating his heroin habit. There was a brief resurgence with his Woke Up Sticky solo album in 1995 (an inconsistent effort, but with enough good songs on there to remind you what the guy was capable of) before he quietly dipped below the waves again, resurfacing in 2007 with an Only Ones reunion for some well-received gigs, before it was tragically curtailed by the passing of drummer Mike Kellie last year.
Now clean and sober, Perrett has set about recording his second solo album. And in doing so, he’s come up with an absolute stormer. All too often, releases like this see gushing praise where sometimes it isn’t warranted (partly I think because admitting that your musical heroes aren’t as good as they used to be can be quite painful), but hand on heart How The West Was Won really is good enough that it could stand toe to toe with the first two Only Ones albums. And if you’ve heard those then you’ll know that’s high praise indeed.
What strikes you about this album is how optimistic and hopeful it is. The main feature of The Only Ones in their prime was they were doomed romantics par excellence, not so much looking into the abyss as standing right down at the bottom of it staring back out. While there’s still the odd bit of that here, a lot of the real standout moments here come with the slower ballads such as the Byrds-esque Troika, An Epic Story, Man Of Extremes and Sweet Endeavour. Perrett’s voice actually hasn’t changed that much since he was singing the likes of Another Girl Another Planet and From Here To Eternity and it gives these songs a lovely heart-warming feel to them which’ll give you a nice warm glow inside. Seriously, I challenge you to listen to the aching C Voyeurger and not feel a lump come to your throat.
Elsewhere, Living Inside My Head is a woozy six-minute epic with a great extended outro solo and Something In My Brain could almost be the album writ large, as Perrett takes a look at his brushes with mortality down the years and tells of his survival with relish. It sums up the feel of How The West Was Won, a mood-lifting comeback tale of battling and beating the odds.
How The West Was Won is an absolute triumph, not just reminding the world that Peter Perrett is still here, but actually being up there with his best work. Emotional, defiant and holding its head up high, this is a guaranteed album to make you feel better when you're down in the dumps. Put it right at the top of your shopping list or you're missing out.