Release Date: Feb 12, 2016
Record label: Slumberland
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
With the help of his onetime student James Hoare of Ultimate Painting and Veronica Falls, Pete Astor, senior lecturer at the University of Westminster and indie pop icon, delivers one of his career highlights with 2016's Spilt Milk. Starting in the mid-'80s, Astor has been an astute detailer of life and love set to an always hummable soundtrack. Indie pop jangly with the Loft and Weather Prophets, subtle and simple on his solo albums, here Astor and Hoare split the difference with a simple jangle pop sound that is bedroom intimate.
Formerly the prime mover in two esteemed Creation acts, The Loft and post-C86 contenders The Weather Prophets, Pete Astor was one of the hippest names to drop before the indie-pop scene embraced Madchester on the cusp of the 90s. Still signed to Alan McGee’s imprint, Astor then issued two warmly-received, cultishly appreciated solo LPs, Submarine and Zoo in the early 90s. He later struck out for pastures new; releasing intriguing discs by his experimental, left-field projects The Wisdom Of Harry and Ellis Island Sound through labels such as Heavenly and Static Caravan.
Spilt Milk is the work of a lifelong musician who in recent years has also turned to writing and lecturing about his chosen field. Pete Astor is aware of the legacy that has unwound behind him since forming the Loft in the 1980s, but as the title of his new album suggests, he also seems wary of too much reflection on the past. After the requisite amount of second-act dabbling outside his comfort zone, Astor has here rediscovered his jangle ‘n’ roll voice, giving fans of the Weather Prophets, as well as his earliest solo records like Submarine, ten easy going reasons to get reacquainted.
Following last year’s dabblings in kraut-out dubtronica with Ellis Island Sound, Pete Astor returns to what he does best: serenading us with simple, well-crafted jangle-pop. Recent single Mr. Music finds him (self-effacingly?) mocking more venerable performers with its ‘when will he let it go?’ refrain, but elsewhere he’s on a charm offensive, thanks to the doe-eyed delivery of Sleeping Tiger and The Getting There.
So fare thee well to two of rock’s great icons. The warty, mutton chopped, heavy roller who raged along a highway to hell, leather clad girl on each arm, glorying in debauchery and grizzly riffs. And, of course, the androgynous glam rocking, cha-cha-changing, alien who fell to Earth, blew their minds and redefined pop music. Shine on you crazy diamonds… They can’t all be revolutionary rock and roll legends though.
Having satisfyingly rejuvenated his formative role as a singing songwriter with 2011’s astutely ornate and somewhat overlooked solo Songbox album on Second Language – after a decade or so devoting the bulk of his creative time to The Wisdom Of Harry’s experimentalist art-pop and Ellis Island Sound’s largely wordless shape-shifting exotica – Pete Astor comes almost full-circle with this new solo LP, in reconnecting even more to his guitar-bass-drums-driven beginnings as the de facto leader of The Loft and The Weather Prophets. Leaving the comfort zone provided by his more recent musical accomplices (notably the ever-reliable David Sheppard), Astor has instead put the bulk of his backing ensemble and production faith into relative youngster James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, The Proper Ornaments and Veronica Falls); with largely redeeming results. With Hoare assuming most of the multi-instrumentalist layering duties in his analogue home studio set-up, Split Milk allows Astor to continue with the perceptive dry-witted lyrical paths he re-opened on Songbox whilst being enveloped in a warm fug of languid chugging and twanging guitars, low-slung bass, rudimentary cardboard box-like live drums, primitive programmed percussion, balmy keyboards and honeyed harmonies.