Release Date: Jun 3, 2014
Record label: Nettwerk
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Dance-Rock, Goth Rock
One of my favorite things that I’ve ever seen at a concert happened in 1995, when Peter Murphy was touring behind his fifth solo studio album, Cascade. That wasn’t a particularly good album, and the tour wasn’t particularly impressive either–he’d occasionally leave the stage and return in a new shirt, which struck me as combining the pretension of Ziggy Stardust-esque multiple costume changes with a low-budget shabbiness. But few of the hundreds of devotees who showed up seemed to care.
When Peter Murphy was interviewed by Billboard last year during the initial sessions that would become his latest album, Lion, he described it as “a mixture of stuff” — an understatement to say the least. While every song on Lion comes at the listener from a different angle, we never question who the artist is. Murphy has a very distinctive voice, Bowie-esque without the boyish charm, but even with the vocals aside, the music here is undeniably Murphy.
There’s an episode of What’s In My Bag?—a collection of videos where famous musicians are spotted in an Amoeba Music store and asked about what they’re buying—where Peter Murphy had a copy of Metallica’s S&M at the top of his pile. At least I think it’s S&M. “My son has turned me on to Metallica. I always liked them anyway.
2011's Ninth was the leanest and most immediate collection of new material from Peter Murphy to arrive since the late '90s, and Lion, his tenth long-player, while a much different animal (pun intended) sonically, goes for the jugular in a similar fashion. Working with Killing Joke's Martin "Youth" Glover furnishes the 11-eleven track set with a moody and meaty, industrial electro-pop foundation that's as much a throwback to the scene that Murphy helped spawn as it is a nod to modern Darkwave enthusiasts and goth-punk shoegazers like the Horrors, Cold Cave, and Zola Jesus. Lion finds the "Godfather of Goth" at his most unfettered, howling at the moon with the hubris of someone expecting a return call.
Peter Murphy first made his name as the frontman for Bauhaus, the prototypical goth rock band. All these years later, Murphy still sings like David Bowie's evil twin and can erect a cemetery of darkened synths, guitars, and drums like nobody's business. On that level, Lion is another fun ride through Murphy's haunted imagination. The problem is his fans already know this cemetery very well and Lion doesn't really show us any new graves of significance.
The Godfather of Goth returns in prime form with Lion, his follow up to Ninth (2011), and it outshines his previous album in all possible ways. Ninth was a straight up rock album, a solid, good but not great effort that lacked variety and scale. This time, the music is more stylized, experimental and enriched, exploring various sounds and Murphy seems more confident than ever before.