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Heroine / Tattoo

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Album Review

You'd have to search pretty far and wide to find a double-CD with discs as different to each other as this one is, even though both the disc titled "Heroine" and the one titled "Tattoo" are billed to Peter Daltrey. Daltrey has accumulated a minor cult following based on his work in the late 1960s and early '70s with the British bands Kaleidoscope and Fairfield Parlour, and was still active when this 2010 release was issued about four decades later. His songwriting and voice are much the same on Heroine, which he wrote, performed, and produced by himself (with the exception of some guitars on one track). He's still writing in a folky psychedelic pop style, perhaps too pop to be acid folk, but too melancholy and florid to be pop. What is different is the production, which is very much post-psychedelic in its one-man-synth-band flavor, with washes of synth and some mechanical, boxy percussion. It's an understatement to note that this doesn't serve his style at all well; it's far too slick, and when the songs tend toward the extremely reflective and ("Alma Cogan Saturdays" being one example) nostalgic, the music can be suffocatingly cloying. There's still some solid writing in the haunting style of his vintage work in songs like "The Hills Above Mayenne," but it's fair to say that very few if any of the listeners who've followed Daltrey from the Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour days will think the arrangements are a turn for the better. As much as one dreads more of the same when inserting Tattoo, it turns out — shockingly — to be not only entirely different in production, but boasts spare, acoustic, guitar-oriented arrangements far more suited to his style, though perhaps they could have done with a bit more fuller-boned backing. The meager annotation makes it hard to break down exactly who did what, but at least part of this improvement must be attributed to the involvement of longtime acid-folkie of sort Damien Youth. He co-wrote, co-produced, and co-performed every track but one (and modestly does not take co-billing for Tattoo as a whole, though he'd seem to have earned it). The songs are satisfyingly pensive, low-key psychedelic folk. Even if the compositional approach might not be worlds different from the material on Heroine, the production is so more dead-on appropriate that it sounds almost like you're listening to an entirely different artist. That is a turn for the better, and sometimes far more forceful in execution than any of the tunes on Heroine, though Daltrey's more at home with the more delicate songs. Tattoo does have the aura of fellows stuck in the late psychedelic age; "Big Gun" even has the lyric "I had a vision, but it died way back in 1973." But it's retro in a good, unforced way that's as above the average for 21st century releases by veterans of the psychedelic age as Heroine is below that average.

Heroine / Tattoo, Peter Daltrey
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