The Not So Quiet Man
For someone with a resume that includes time as leader of one of gothic rock’s foundation acts, plus pretty regular tours and occasional forays in front of movie cameras since then, doesn’t ex-Bauhaus frontman Peter Murphy seem musically invisible? Come on, it’s wholly unfair that he only caught lightning in a bottle with the great “Cuts You Up” 21 years ago. By extension, it doesn’t feel real that Ninth is indeed his ninth solo studio release.
This album seems to expose Murphy’s artistry as comprised of a bunch of “almosts” when compared to his familiars and contemporaries. He doesn’t always match the martial melodic sensibilities of Gary Numan; he’s not quite the same storyteller/carnival barker as Nick Cave; his vocals aren’t as gravelly and road-weary as those of Iggy Pop. Yet this combination on Ninth contributes to a unique voice and vision putting Murphy in a good position for rebirth and rediscovery.
Murphy finally got to use the Internet with this, his first album of the century, teasing fans with online leaks of the breathy relationship tale “The Prince & Old Lady Shade,” the song-that-might-be-about-Bauhaus “I Spit Roses,” and “Seesaw Sway.” This particular track feels like a paean to his wife Beyhan and a fitting coda to the legacy of “Cuts You Up,” ethereal yet strained melodies discussing the push-and-pull of a relationship, as he tells it, “for 23 summers now.”
The slower tracks, with the possible exception of “Secret Silk Society,” are weaker moments where we find Murphy wandering off into the musical forest. Yet from opening fight song “Velocity Bird” to “Memory Go,” Ninth is stocked with sometimes spacey, sometimes crunchy pop from the dark side. This is another example of a lead singer from a big-name band glomming onto studio musicians and holding his own (see: Morrissey). It looks like Murphy’s done it before to much less fanfare; let’s hope he gets to spread the word loud and long this time around.