Adapted from Pitchfork:
Peter Murphy’s latest solo album picks up where Bauhaus’ gleefully abrasive 2008 album Go Away White left off. Working with producer Martin Glover, aka Youth, he’s completed that previous album’s mission to bring industrial-tinged gothic dance-punk into the present.
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. The two most rapt audience members were a pair of highly done-up goth boys who were jammed against the center of the stage. Murphy noticed their laser-like focus on his performance, and part way through his set he took a towel he’d just used to wipe sweat off his head and draped it gently over the face of one of the boys. He spent the rest of the show cradling the towel against his chest, in the embrace of his partner–a goth boy wrapped around a goth boy wrapped around Peter Murphy’s sweaty towel. I’ve rarely seen anyone as totally transported by a concert experience since then.
Those are the kind of fans that have sustained Murphy’s career during the occasional periods where his fairweather fans lose interest. The latest stretch has been taking place since Bauhaus’ unexpectedly triumphant 2005 reunion fell apart two years later. Now would be a good time for those more capricious fans to get back on board, as Murphy’s new solo LP, Lion is one of the best he’s ever released.
Aside from the Bauhaus reunion, Murphy’s spent most of the new millennium working in various shades of esoterica; he recorded an album of electronics-enhanced Turkish folk music, a set of classic rock covers, and a couple of efforts that resurrected the more delicate, acoustically-flavored sounds that defined his early solo albums like Deep and Holy Smoke. Lion picks up where Bauhaus’ gleefully abrasive 2008 album Go Away White left off. Working with producer Martin Glover, aka Youth, he’s completed that previous album’s mission to bring industrial-tinged gothic dance-punk into the present.
Lion opens well into the red with “Hang Up”, a super-dense fusion of rolling, slow-motion arena rock drums, swarm-of-bees synthesizers, and Murphy’s unsettlingly intense vocals, which have a frantic energy and the raw timbre of someone who’s been pushing his larynx to extremes for the past few decades. Between Murphy’s ragged howl and Glover’s typically noisy electronic production it sounds something like what Scott Walker might be making now if he’d never abandoned pop structures. The album doesn’t let up from there: “I Am My Own Name” throws sheets of guitar noise over a darkly throbbing dance beat, with Murphy taking the same death-disco diva role he played on classics like “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. “Low Tar Stars” finds him emulating Bowie for the umpteenth time in his career, only this time it draws from his quasi-industrial, collaborating-with-Trent-Reznor period in the ’90s.
Glover’s recent work with Paul McCartney was evidence of the producer’s unique ability to locate the pent-up energy lurking inside an artist who’s reached a point in his career where he could comfortably, justifiably, coast, and on Lion he does the same with Murphy, who doesn’t just sound energized, but electrified, too. Peter Murphy’s once again located the razor-thin line between restraint and complete unhingedness that he hasn’t walked since Bauhaus’ first time around, and following his recent exploits has never felt more rewarding.