Pete Astor – One For The Ghost

Pete Astor – One For The Ghost

With 2016’s Split Milk LP and Do Nothing EP – on the now folded Fortuna Pop! and the furtive Feral Child labels respectively – veteran musical scholar and polymath Pete Astor reconnected somewhat unexpectedly with the guitar-driven singer-songwriter persona of his Creation Records-affiliated years.  Seemingly still in no rush to return to the enduring experimental terrain he trod with The Wisdom Of Harry, Ellis Island Sound and on his more laterally-adorned 2011 solo album Songbox, this fresh platter for a new label home at Hamburg’s Tapete Records continues to plough a jangling and chugging furrow for more wry and reflective post-middle-age ruminations.

Again, aided and abetted by his erstwhile student James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Proper Ornaments, Veronica Falls) on guitar duties, along with the fresh help from two-thirds of The Wave Pictures (namely bassist Franic Rozycki and drummer Jonny Helm) and Pam Berry (Withered Hand, Black Tambourine) on backing vocals, One For The Ghost ostensibly picks up where Split Milk and Do Nothing left-off.  However, there is arguably a slightly tighter and less tentative feel to the gathered recordings as a whole.  Perhaps less self-conscious of a perceived retrograde shift after years of spreading his sonic reach, Astor sounds more comfortable here in his creative side-stepping.

Certainly, there feels like a little more heart and soul has been put into the core songcraft, with the framings there to serve the songs rather than the other way around.  Hence, the solid opening loner contemplations of “Walker” and the sardonic “Water Flower” fuse some adroit wordplay to unabashed Loaded-era VU warmth.  The looser psych shapes surrounding the ensuing black humoured title-track are a little less effective but the galloping ragged rockabilly rhythms of the meaner-spirited “Golden Boy” are more emphatically rousing.  Taking it down a notch pace-wise for the late-period-Byrds setting around the slightly lazy “Injury Time” and the somewhat plodding observations of “Magician And Assistant” may provide a mid-album dip but the “Stuck In The Middle With You”-like buoyancy of the ensuing “Only Child” provides a more welcome country-pop swing.  For the record’s closing trio of tracks, the more pared-back “Tango Uniform” offers some heartfelt rumination, “You Better Dream” hits a gorgeous Go-Betweens folk-rock groove that might make now labelmate Robert Forster envious and the almost lilting narrative-driven “Dead Fred” rounds things off with some winsome pathos.

Whilst again, as with its immediate aforementioned predecessors, there is a nagging feeling across One For The Ghost that Pete Astor could be still digging deeper into his cupboard of less conventional musical arrangements, there remains a good helping of charming and curious songs that invite return visits and slack-cutting forgiveness.

Tapete Records