'The Spell Is Broken' from Pete Sounds! By Pete Wylie
If there were any themes to this advent series (there aren’t) then one of them might be that of (white) men reconnecting with the medium of recorded music in their middle age. Sound familiar? Well 2017 saw the return of Pete Wylie in typically swashbuckling and anthemic form. Pete Sounds! seemed to have been years in the making and I suspect many of the folks who ‘pledged’ to make it a reality may have occasionally wondered just where their pennies had gone to… But! With a glut of exclamation marks real and inferred (Wylie is clearly no subscriber to Fitzgerald’s maxim that an exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke - or perhaps he is and that is the whole point?!) Pete Sounds! finally made it to the line and proclaimed itself FINISHED! Wah! Or indeed WAH!
The Pete on Pete Sounds! is not quite as great as in the days of The Mighty Wah! but he certainly still has the swagger to pull off a tune that saunters to the stratosphere and flicks the Vs at the stars. On occasion the mask of illusion slips and the ridiculous image of middle-aged men continuing to worship at the altar of “rock’n’roll” feels uncomfortable and not a little creepy (sorry Pete! I can’t listen to album closer ‘I Still Believe’ without rolling my eyes and pressing ’skip', or indeed without remembering that disagreement between Richard Hell and Lester Bangs…) but when Pete Sounds! steers a path not quite so blatantly peppered with cliche and obviously tired self-reference it does stir the soul not a little. Second to last track ’The Spell Is Broken’ is case in point, wherein Pete! fills eight and a half minutes with a lush cacophony of switchblades and symbolist poetry. Sure, it’s no ‘Story Of The Blues parts 1 and 2’ but you know it’s not a million miles away, when even a million miles would be close enough company for most to be happy with. On ‘The Spell Is Broken’ Pete! more eloquently expresses belief in the idea of love, soul and rock’n’roll simply because he never does anything so crass as spell it so obviously. Instead he allows belief to seep into every breath and tremor, every squall and flurry. Instinctive and true, just as it ought to be. The spell isn’t broken, it’s only being woven ever more beguilingly. In truth it’s a glorious album closer and if I ever see a vinyl copy of Pete Sounds! I’m taking a knife through the grooves of ‘I Still Believe’ to make it just that.