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Thru a Glass Brightly

Peter Lacey

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Album Review

On his debut solo effort, Peter Lacey did not have in his possession an unlimited recording budget. He had neither exotic orchestration nor a pick of the session-musician litter to make manifest the pop sophistication that sprang from his imagination. Yet Lacey proved himself an artist with an adroit and exquisite musical vision on the superb BEAM!, an album that aspired to and frequently managed to approach the rarified, sophisticated oxygen inhaled by admitted inspirations such as Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach. Even if the music was forced to reveal itself through the fog of lo-fi recording techniques, few artists, including would-be Beach Boys like Sean O'Hagan and Robert Schneider, have ever come so near to equaling the gravitas (as opposed to the whimsy) of a Wilsonian melody or a Bacharachian turn of musical phrase. Those techniques remain essentially the same on Lacey's second full-length, a piece of music that sparkles even more and another work teeming with a bounty of pop/rock ideas. Glorious, serpentine melodies and slowly blooming harmonies billow from the gauzy depths of Thru a Glass Brightly. For those expecting it, though, the album is certainly not BEAM! volume two, and it is all the better for that fact. Thru a Glass Brightly has more tension, more texture (even if it comes mainly by way of synthesizer), and an altogether greater musical scope and vision. It would have been easy to again take borrowed muses and follow them to their logical conclusions, but whereas BEAM! was very much an extension of certain legacies, Thru a Glass Brightly discovers a glorious island that is entirely of Lacey's own creation and claiming. The music casts off the cloak of Wilson (although certain songs — "Inspiration" and the instrumental "Sun Street," specifically — still bear that significant influence) while filtering its sound world through XTC and the '80s new romantics as well as appropriating some of the dense production haze of the '70s L.A. sound. Going even beyond those artists and eras, though, it is its own translucent and laconic daydream, shedding BEAM!'s air of innocence (the ominous "Cloud Gathering," for instance) while growing much more probing ("The Tower" has an almost-sacred impact, with its motet-worthy harmonies) and much more dramatically satisfying as a whole. Absorbing Thru a Glass Brightly is like getting a private glimpse through a kaleidoscope — indeed, the title suggests as much — where a private world materializes for the listener's benefit alone.

Biography

Born: 04 January 1966

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Peter Lacey emerged at the end of the millennium from the shadows of years of session work on the British scene with a sound so melodically rich and sophisticated that he earned inevitable comparisons to legends from the golden era of pop music — Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach in particular. Although such comparisons are never fair and often misleading, Lacey certainly earned the praise and distinction bestowed upon his music, and although he was beholden to melodic innovations from two and...
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Thru a Glass Brightly, Peter Lacey
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