No, no this isn’t right at all. Peter Murphy has too beautiful of a voice for this. It’s a rich, honeyed baritone that can climb to a brittle yelp when necessary (with Bauhaus, say) but on this record he seemingly rejoices in the velvety gravitas of it. And why shouldn’t he? I need to be careful when I say this, but his vocal abilities are well beyond the gothic aesthetic that he’s instantly associated with; in fact, in FACT, give him a little more time, and he might get into Scott Walker territory. There. I said it. One bright spotlight. A casually flicked wrist. An orchestra suspended seemingly in midair. A sigh. And then hysteria, crying, flowers and fainting spells. Age suits his voice. It only gets better with years, deeper and more resonant, more sensitive. Scott Walker. Tell me you don’t hear it.
However, inversely proportional to the maturing timbre of his voice is the quality of material that Peter Murphy, solo artist, is given to work with. The musical arrangements that make up the backbone of Unshattered are unforgivably lackluster. There’s no spark, no sense of the drama or tension or ache that suits all great voices (Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours” etc.), just a gradual, drowsy drift. The music is adult, comfy, relaxed, somnambulistic and overproduced. It sounds like recent U2 ballads, Sting’s Soul Cages, and “Quiet Storm” smooth jazz. And it’s a shame, because Unshattered is a wasted opportunity, especially in light of the Bauhaus/NIN summer outing, that Murphy can’t have superior product hitting the shelves just as younger audiences pick their jaws up off the floor after witnessing Bauhaus’s still-spry assault. He needs to do a cabaret album, or maybe an Elvis-style comeback special, all stripped-down leather menace, or maybe his Rick Rubin-reinvention album with Murphy and a piano recorded as raw as possible, one take each, perhaps a Damon Albarn-style world immersion in the music of his Turkish home, shit, make an album with Burt Bacharach, he knows a good singer needs musical heartbreak. But in the end it’s Scott Walker’s peerless Scott’s 1-4 that hold the one true path for Peter Murphy. Orchestras and existential heartbreak/despair. Please.
If it weren’t Peter Murphy, I wouldn’t hold him up to such impossible standards. Compromise is the devil talking, after all.
Peter Murphy: www.petermurphy.info