Former Bauhaus vocalist Peter Murphy is unique in vocals and appearance. The years have been extraordinarily kind to these traits, and while the cover art for Ninth has Mr. Murphy painted up like Harvey “Two-Face” Dent (were he portrayed by Al Pacino, that is), the album’s music lingers in a sonic age when Joy Division still reigned supreme. Nostalgia for the sake of a cheap sell is typically wanting, such as KoRn’s recent lackluster backpedaling; resurrection out of necessity, well…
Peter Murphy could have done virtually anything now, and his early records, both with Bauhaus and after, would remain unscathed. There has been scant hype for Ninth, as far as one could see, so Murphy’s triumphant return has been relatively low-key. Meanwhile, one taste of “See Saw Sway” or “I Spit Roses” will remind you of exactly who you’re dealing with: the man.
It is punk, jaunt, goth, doom, ’80s gloom, everything is present and accounted for. Is Murphy at his best 100% of the time? Opener, “Velocity Bird”, could exhibit otherwise; does it mean the album sucks, on the whole? Absolutely not. Murphy’s solo material is what introduced me to Bauhaus, and in working backward, one thing became utterly apparent — Peter Murphy emotes, ridiculously so, and has never really stopped.
To give you a rough idea of how flawed yet delectable Ninth is, “Memory Go” and “Never Fall Out” show two polarizing points in Murphy’s existence, here: the former giving him room to really dance on modern times with a Bowie-meets-Danzig slant (also see: “The Prince & Old Lady Shade”), whilst the latter follows “Velocity Bird” in the same weaknesses. People will take this Murphy record, or they will leave it. I do not suspect it will hold up in the long-term, which is probably a crime all its own, given the retro nature of Ninth‘s majority compositions.
As suggested by one of the song titles, Ninth can be “Uneven & Brittle” at junctures, but to be fair, this album could have easily been considered a toss-away or entirely unnecessary before even getting a proper listen. Why? Because lots of folks tire when former glory comes back to try and regain footing in the new ages, or worse still, never know when to quit (Steven Tyler, you could take a hint). Peter Murphy might not be what he once was, but utilizing contemporary goth rock sounds in a current backdrop without too many missteps has to count for something.
Even the record’s name says, “This is my swan song, heed it.” And heed, we shall, Mr. Murphy…you were not forgotten. People say it is better to burn out, than to fade away; sometimes, going out with a bang is just as important. Ninth may not live up to what one expects from early Murphy or Bauhaus, however it does do its job fairly well, and it’s unlikely that Murphy will top this awesomeness alone (unless there’s a reunion of his old band in the works).