Friday, August 13, 2010

Peter Case • The Man with the Blue Post Modern Fragmented Neo-Traditionalist Guitar

Our final archival review to celebrate "Peter Case Week." Next week I will post my interview with Peter, so stay tuned...

Three years later, Peter Case releases his second solo album. A stunning companion to Peter Case, Blue Guitar doesn't really cover any new ground. Producers J. Steven Soles, Larry Hirsch and Case employ the same arrangements and production that T Bone Burnett did on the last one, and the territory covered is quite similar.

"Charlie James" is a traditional tune delivered in a traditional manner, and is followed by a gem called "Put Down the Gun." Other great songs are "Entella Hotel," "Travelin' Light," and my favorite, "This Town's a Riot." Case performed a few of these last spring when he played the Central, and the only differences here are that the songs are backed by a full band, most of the time, and are recorded in beautiful digital stereo.

Again, nothing new has been unearthed here. Peter Case's songs are as strong as ever, as focused and unique as anything else he's done. If you liked Peter Case, you'll like this one, and if you didn't, you won't.
[what a cop out ending!—ed.] [perhaps I was edited heavily?—ed.]

(from The Rocket, Seattle, May 1989)
3/5 (Geffen)

Monday, August 9, 2010

Peter Case • Sings Like Hell

I heard it was only available in the L.A. area so I got a friend of mine to pick it up for me. You'd better make similar arrangements to get Sings Like Hell. Now whether you'll take that title as crummy or fucking brilliant is up to you. But I can tell you, being a professed Casehead [or is that "headCase"? – ed.], that this simple, acoustic CD captures the essence of Peter Case's art and lays it naked on the table for you to deal with. Every nuance of hope, joy and despair in the lyrics benefits from the stark setting of this mostly-solo disc. He tackles a baker's dozen [there's that phrase again – ed.] of blues and bluesy covers, from Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" (the basis for Carl Perkins' '50s rockabilly song), Jesse Winchester's "How 'Bout You," and the supremely rockin' "Walkin' Bum" by David Allan Coe. Records like this make it obvious why bozos like me place so much importance on music. Now then: Call up your friend or relative in California and get her to get you this. (If you don't know anybody there, try Case's "fan club"… Tell 'em the Free Press sent ya.)

(Washington Free Press, Feb/March 1994)

4/5 (Travelin' Light; reissued by Vanguard)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peter Case • Six Pack of Love

Our unofficial Peter Case week continues with some reviews I wrote back in the '90s...

For me, a new Peter Case album is more than that, it's a promise fulfilled. Not just because it's been two years since his last record, and not because it's miles better. It's because Case has made an album that takes all the best elements from Peter Case, and all the vibrancy and energy that made his work with the Plimsouls so good, and comes up with a brilliant work that'll one day be his benchmark.

Six Pack of Love is a baker's dozen of pure pop songs, harkening back to the early '80s when Case and the Plimsouls made the LA "new wave" scene. Cuts here like "It's All Mine" and "Why?" echo the song structure that made "A Million Miles Away" the definitive wave cut. Then songs like "Why Don't We Give It a Go?" and "It Don't Matter What People Say" remind you he's forsaken a lot of the rootsy rock of his previous solo work for more straightforward arrangements. His songwriting is better than ever, though, so the loss is only on paper.

There's an undeniable Lennon-ness to this album (like the Plastic Ono Band yelps at the end of "Why?"), too, that not so much apes The Beatles as it adds a richness of passion that only the best pop music contains. This is due as much to Case's (perhaps) newfound vigor as it is to the fact that he uses the same band throughout Six Pack of Love, which adds a coherence that his previous solo efforts lacked. On these records sidemen were the order of the day (as great as many of them were/are) — they seem so solo. Here we get a tight, ace band featuring bassist Bruce Thomas, the ex-Attraction who helped make Elvis Costello's music a lot better than it might have been, and drummer Gary Mallaber, who's been with everyone from Steve Miller to Bruce Springsteen. If the names Miller and Sprinsteen make you shriek with ambivalence, forget about 'em! Stop by the store and pick up a Six Pack of Love. And when you ask yourself why Case's latest is also his greatest, conjure this horrid ad slogan into your brainstem: Why ask why?

(from The Rocket, Seattle, May 1992)
5/5 (Geffen)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Peter Case • Wig!

No, Peter Case isn't balding and trying out toupées. He's got a new solo album out, and it's a real corker (to use our Limey friends' parlance). After a 2009 that saw Case go through heart surgery without insurance AND the release of 4 Case-related albums (see The Nerves on this blog), the man recorded Wig! with DJ Bonebrake of X and some other friends. Just like most of his releases, it's very heartfelt without being corny or doomy gloomy.

Perched somewhere between his mostly-solo albums (Sings Like Hell, et al.) and his band records (Six-Pack of Love), Wig! has a very bluesy vibe, yet it doesn't use the usual 12-bar template. There's a gutsy, smokey room feel, yeah, but Case's lyrical observations, along with his band's punk rock pedigree, make for songs and arrangements that mark this for solo album of 2010. It opens with "Banks of the River" and its swampy guitar and piano intro, followed by the more Chicago-bluesy "Dig What You're Puttin' Down." If I told you there's a bit of a John Fogerty thing going on here, too, would it keep you from checking it out? I hope not, because it's just one of the many I could call up that span the album, yet this record is quintessential Peter Case. I read somewhere that this was a return to his Plimsouls past (and sadly I noted it in my new releases update a few weeks ago), and that couldn't be more wrong. The closest it gets to that is a remake of "Old Blue Car," which appeared on his first post-Plims LP. Wig! has a great feeling of hope to it, not in a hokey way, but in a more post-modern fragmented neo-traditionalist kinda way, like on "House Rent Jump" and it's side two counterpart, "House Rent Party."

In all, Wig! has all the elements that make a great Case for Peter. (Ah, crap, sorry about that.) Pick one up now...

In the next few days I'll be transcribing a short interview I did with Peter Case and it'll be up here before you can say, "Gooch, get goin'!" We spoke about the album, the accompanying tour (for dates, go here), and a few other topics.
4/5 (YepRoc)