Peter Elkas – [Album]

Thursday, 05 May 2011

Peter Elkas' new release Repeat Offender is an album I wish I liked. Since stumbling across his 2003 album, Party of One, I have been anxiously awaiting another release featuring the same balance of sexy swagger, gritty guitars and infectious songwriting. 2007's Wall of Fire was adequate but was more sexy than gritty, and consequently disappointing. Elkas last appeared on my radar when he officially joined Joel Plaskett's backing band and signed to Plaskett's label, New Scotland Records.  Repeat Offender is his first record on New Scotland and, to be fair, there is a lot to like – but it is also the kind of album where I can pinpoint the exact moment when the wheels come off.

Let's start with the positives, because the album starts out strong. The opening track, "Anticipation," begins with Elkas softly strumming an acoustic guitar before falling into a sensual groove that compliments the lyrical content which finds him "rusting over" from his lovers lack of attention. "Cruel Thing To Do," despite sounding a bit like the intro to "Poets" by The Tragically Hip and a lot like a lost Keith Richards solo track, sets a promising tone for the album. On "The Blue of You" Elkas combines subtle horns, seventies soul keyboards and jittery guitars to form a nice gentle groove. On all three of those first tracks, Elkas successfully implements horns, organs and heavy backing vocals to his guitar, bass and drums base without having the extra instrumentation define the songs but, as the album progresses, I'd argue that it is this ancillary instrumentation that generally starts to detract from the overall effect.

Specifically, it's on "Tiny Valentine" that the album goes off course. At the one minute mark, Elkas breaks away from a slow piano intro into a swing groove and a chorus that is reminiscent of Rufus Wainwright. It's a transition that is unexpected and starts a chain reaction of unexpected and unwelcome sounds. On "Tiny Valentine," Elkas is seemingly enjoying playing with a genre song and the possibilities that this provides but it feels like a major departure from the opening tracks and is off-putting. The following track, "Misery," reminds me of something from Neil Young's 1986 album Everybody's Rocking with its generic and sloppy horn parts and Scotty Moore guitar fills. While I have no doubt the song was a blast to record and may be a nice addition to his live set, the nagging impression it leaves is one of 'all style and no substance.' The verses to "Melody" see Elkas returning to form in a stripped down guitar and drum combination before exploding into a Beach Boys inspired chorus with sugar-coated backing vocals. It's an infectious song and fans of big chorus hooks will no doubt be pleased. The title track sees Elkas returning to the Stones-y guitar parts he set up earlier and also features a superb slide guitar outro. Having revived the momentum on "Misery" and "Return Offender,” Elkas then proceeds to kill it again with "Hummingbirds" and "Atlas.” Thankfully, "Hummingbirds" is the shortest song on the record, because it is of exactly no use; sounding almost like a lullaby (ie; a snoozer). "Atlas" further continues to kill the momentum, but fortunately Elkas is able to finish strong with "Cool Thing To Do,” a response to "Cruel Thing To Do" featuring a sax solo that would make John Candy grin.

All in all, Repeat Offender features the soul grooves, slightly gritty guitars and infectious songwriting that have previously made Elkas such a good listen, but it is a low dosage. As a whole, the album lacks focus and sees the singer spending too much time playing with extra instrumentation and genre songs and straying away from his strengths. There is something charming and alluring about Peter Elkas, and there is enough on Repeat Offender to keep me coming back for more – but I am still looking for an offering to match the consistency of Party Of One, and it's not here.



Peter Elkas – “Cool Thing To Do” – Repeat Offender


Repeat Offender
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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