Artist: Pete Astor
Label: Second Language
Cat. No: SL012
Release date: Aug 2011
Four Letter Word
The Perfect Crime
Tree of Birds
Mistress of Song
Songbox, Pete Astor’s sixth solo album and his first record outing for four years, marks a welcome return for a significant, if under-heralded, British underground musician finally getting his due partly thanks to a prominent role in the acclaimed Creation Records documentary Upside Down. His return is accompanied by a new album, which surely ranks among Astor’s finest recorded work since those heady ’80s heydays.
The new album marks a change in direction from Astor’s more experimental, post-Creation work in groups such as Ellis Island Sound and the Wisdom of Harry. Backed by the woodwinds of Keiron Phelan (State River Widening, Phelan-Sheppard) and Jenny Brand (Kluster Ensemble), together with layers of guitars, drums and keyboards from David Sheppard (State River Widening, Ellis Island Sound) and supported by the harmony vocals of Angèle David-Guillou (Piano Magic, Klima), the eleven essays on Songbox offer an abundance of lushly arranged, timeless chamber-rock, brimming with wry lyrical insight and haunting melodic hooks.
A potent synthesis of very British songwriting, Europhile sensibilities and a stateless cosmopolitanism, Songbox serpentines between the diseased Jacques Brel-meets-Alex Harvey monologue of ‘Dead Trumpets’ and the baroque, Bill Fay-like murder mystery that is ‘The Perfect Crime’, via chiming, nostalgia-soaked folk-pop nuggets like ‘The Ride’ and ‘Tiny Town’, concluding with the heart-wrenching, Leonard Cohen-like artistic hymnal, ‘Mistress Of Song’.
Presented, in the Second Language label’s customary bespoke style, in a limited edition box package, the aptly titled Songbox is accompanied by an additional album of cover versions of the album songs by an eclectic line-up of illustrious fellow artists including Let’s Wrestle, The Raincoats, Darren Hayman, Comet Gain, Dollboy and Pastourelle, alongside 12 exquisite, especially commissioned fine-art postcards which illustrate the songs’ lyrics.
An ’80s indie chart-topper with his band The Loft (and later The Weather Prophets), Astor brought considered, literate songwriting craft to Creation, a label more characteristically in thrall to less cerebral ’60s pop thrills; none of which prevented him gracing the cover of the NME, the main stage at Glastonbury and the BBC’s legendary music TV showcase, Whistle Test. Astor went on to release a series of critically-lauded solo albums, touring extensively in France and across Europe, receiving Les Inrockuptibles’ ‘Album of the Year’ accolade in 1992 for the album Paradise before a fin-de-siècle ‘second coming’ with Matador recording artists The Wisdom Of Harry (who recorded three albums for the label) and instrumental duo Ellis Island Sound. A solo folk covers album, Hal’s Eggs (Static Caravan, 2004) and EIS’s The Good Seed (Peacefrog, 2007) were his most recent releases.
These days, Astor divides his time between songwriting and a career as an academic at the University of Westminster and London’s Goldsmith’s College, lecturing on and researching popular music cultures.
Pete is undertaking a series of rare live appearances, backed by his band, The Souls, to support the release of Songbox and is available for interview.
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For all press enquiries and to hear the album in full, please contact Mick Houghton : firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday 9th July - 7eme Ciel, Paris
Friday 15th July - Duke of Uke benefit, Christ Church Crypt, Spitalfields, London
Sunday 24th July, supporting Comet Gain, PA & Ben Phillopson, acoustic set, The Lexington, London
Saturday 30th July, Pete Astor and the Souls, Filthy McNasty's, London
© Second Language Music 2012