When a former member of Bauhaus, arguably one of the greatest goth bands of all time (certainly the most-cited when it comes to naming a goth band at random, anyway) releases a new album, it’s never a safe bet to go in anticipating that you’re going to get music for shiny, happy people. As such, to find that Peter Murphy’s new release Dust isn’t exactly upbeat . . . well, it isn’t exactly a surprise.
But to find that it’s thoroughly and consistently slow, morose, and, at times, downright sleep-inducing . . . well, that’s a bit depressing, actually. More so, even, than the music itself.
Peter Murphy has never been the cheeriest of sorts. Solo hits like “All Night Long”, “Indigo Eyes”, “The Sweetest Drop”, and “Cuts You Up” were far from smile-inducing, but they were catchy in their own way, and you remembered them long after they’d left the confines of your CD or cassette player. It’s ironic, then, that Dust begins with a song entitled “Things To Remember”, as none of its songs particularly stick with you after they’re over. Indeed, in many cases, some inspire the listener to wonder they’re even finished, “Holy crap, when is this song going to end?” Once you’ve looked at the track listing and the length of each track on the back of the disc, you’ll understand why one might wonder this; the shortest track is over six-and-a-half minutes long. (The longest, for the record, is two seconds short of nine minutes.)
Described at one point in its press release as “part trance, part alt-prog-rock, part classical, (and) part pop,” Dust doesn’t go anywhere near the traditional definition of “pop”, lest you be misled. It does, however, contain some serious Middle Eastern influences, likely the result of recording portions of the album in Istanbul with the aid of Turkish musicians. Checking back in with the press release, we find that the album is “neither glaringly Western with pasted-on bits of ‘authentic world music’, just as much as it is not a traditional or classical world music album, nor is it straightforward rock or pop. It is, however, an authentic and heartfelt album that combines the influences of Peter’s creative outpouring and highlights his acumen for lyrical depth and imagery. In its entirety, Dust is the culmination of Peter’s life and experiences straddling two cultures of both East and West.”
Murphy is coming off a rather nice two-disc live album (2001’s Alive Just for Love), where he stripped down his hits and presented them in a decidedly delicate fashion. (“Just For Love”, a.k.a. the aforementioned shortest song on Dust, made its debut on the live album, in fact.) Murphy takes the concept of delicacy and implements it throughout Dust; the unfortunate bit is that he forgot that the reason it worked on Alive Just For Love is that it highlighted the underlying melodies in those older songs.
There are no particular melodies to highlight on Dust, however, and, as a result, it’s just one long drag.
Occasionally, there are moments that leap out. “Girlchild Aglow” has a Celtic lilt to it, in particular. And it’s worthy of note to Murphy fans that Dust closes with re-recordings of two tracks from earlier solo albums: “My Last Two Weeks” (from Love Hysteria) and “Subway” (from Cascade). The latter, with the parenthetical addition of the word “Epilogue” to its title, contains a final verse not found in its original incarnation. It may not come as too much of a surprise that these two tracks blow away anything else on the album. It could be because of their familiarity, but, somehow, I don’t think so. I think it’s simply because they’re better songs.
Dust is easily as dry as its namesake . . . and that’s a real shame. Peter Murphy’s been responsible for some legitimately classic albums in his time, and he may yet have more to spring on the world (both east and west), but this ain’t one of ’em. This is just one big gloomfest, and, to the album’s detriment, Murphy never once opts to crack a smile.