When Peter Murphy was interviewed by Billboard last year during the initial sessions that would become his latest album, Lion, he described it as “a mixture of stuff” — an understatement to say the least. While every song on Lion comes at the listener from a different angle, we never question who the artist is. Murphy has a very distinctive voice, Bowie-esque without the boyish charm, but even with the vocals aside, the music here is undeniably Murphy.
That the songs on Lion bounce around in style should come as no surprise to any longtime fan of the former Bauahus frontman, as his solo albums, though usually unified within themselves, tend to explore vast, often seemingly disparate realms. The post-punk goth of his previous release, Ninth, the progressive rock-classical-trance mix in Dust, and his exploration of dark-rooted rock on Cascade all just scratch the surface of Murphy’s breadth. Lion is filled with elements old and new, but nothing here is simply regurgitated retro fancy. Murphy, along with producer Youth (the Killing Joke bassist who also helmed Echo & the Bunnymen’s latest, Meteorites), has delivered an uncompromising album.
Visceral opener and lead single “Hang Up” is a skull-cruncher amalgam of Bauhaus filtered through the post-industrial dirge of Einstürzende Neubauten, while “Low Tar Stars” couples post-punk death disco with Giorgio Moroder. The proclamation “I’m … no whiten drunk … no jaded shock star” throughout “I Am My Own Name” more than reaffirms Murphy as his own man, beholden to no one and nothing. In spite of the heaviness expected from Murphy, he has also never been shy to show his tender side, as evident on the melancholic “The Rose” or the post-rock-addled “Loctaine”, shimmering all over Murphy’s pained lyricism.
For a partnership that began “just to see how it went” and ended “like dropping off the edge of a cliff,” the solidity of Lion makes it nearly impossible to imagine that Murphy and Youth got together without any long-term discussion of the project, much less that they did the whole thing in less than five days. If Lion — easily one of Murphy’s most solid solo releases — was made in less than a week, imagine what time and planning could accomplish.
Essential Tracks: “Low Tar Stars”, “The Rose”, and “Loctaine”