I admit it: I'm at an age where my musical tastebuds can't take anymore posturing or screaming by younger rock acts performing their egomaniacal fertility dances; and I'm also at an age where I'm frequently bewildered by the young tribes who grew old and could not build anything substantive after the first flush of rebellion. How nice it is then, in an age where Disposable Culture apparently rules, when one can come across something with some integrity and staying power. Such is the personality, tone, and Flavor of Peter Lacey's music.
I have scant knowledge of what Mr. Lacey does when he's not slaving over a hot four-track machine, but I like what Lacey conjures up in the mind. Like The Beatles in HELP! with their four separate doors merging into one big groovepad, Lacey's music also stirs up an artistic persona. Try, the sensitive soul looking out from the door of a rustic lighthouse, divining inspiration like a lightning rod, then rushing inside to get the sound images on tape while it's all still fresh in his mind. Of course, I've never been to Sussex, and I'm sure Peter Lacey's world is a bit more grounded and stressful like yours or mine, but it's testimony to his music that he can develop such a picture. Since 2000 there have been 3 heart-wrenching cd's by Peter Lacey, so think of the museum-sized inventory of pictures that he's created in such a brief time.
Lacey's latest offering is ANDERIDA, a title referring to the enormous forest landscape rolling across Kent, Sussex and part of Hampshire. The forest was named by the Romans, those rascals who had a penchant for reshaping and renaming everything in their own image; but a couple thousand years later, a soft-spoken Englishman returns to reclaim the area in his own image, and what's planted among the dense thicket are songs of love and songs of mourning (subtly so). I am convinced that Peter Lacey's inner child is part-choirboy, as the choral strains of "Chime In" burst forth from the hymnal and bloom into secular glory. The word that applies to much of Lacey's work on this cd (and previous cd's) is "transcendent," as the tunes and the lyrics indeed try to transcend or rise above something else more constraining or stultifying in this universe. Take "Carnival," for example, in which the 3-minute McCartney-esque pop song is given a polish and new luster that even Sir Paul could do well to reacquaint himself with. "Carnival" is perhaps one of Lacey's more lyrically 'easy' numbers, but that doesn't mean there's no depth. Carnivals are timeless, ancient gatherings with a childlike aura; it sometimes takes an over-thirty pop singer to get us in-sync with those basic precepts of life that we've overlooked in favor of seemingly more complicated and futile pursuits.
But Peter Lacey isn't merely here to tell us to 'stop and smell the roses.' Lacey's sophomore album (2001), with the ironically-named THROUGH A GLASS BRIGHTLY is a somehow darker work -- in the way that light can still penetrate smoky glass. "Ellen Street" is a paean to every memory-filled street that has met its demise by the teeth of Progress. In Sussex, I venture, this is probably more pronounced than here in the States where the golden arches have become ubiquitous with everything. But even if we recognize one slight piece of our Past being eradicated, we can still identify with this song. Strings don't simply present themselves to tweak heartstrings; rather those strings are there to drop us down deep into the man-made holes where gutted Ellen Street resides, emotional spelunking. Indicative, too, of Lacey's output is the stand-alone track that serves as refreshing tonic. "The Sparkle Room" is such a track, with its wash of harmony that massages the mind. As Lacey told Ronnie Dannelley of EAR CANDY, "The 'Sparkle Room' is actually a term used in wave surfing for the ultimate experience. An epiphany." On the surface, there's nothing deep about surfing, but there's truth to that statement, for in a moment of perfect physical and mental balance - where that elusive sense of stasis rests before slipping away yet again - there exists "The Sparkle Room." Do you need a cd to tell you this? Perhaps, yes; there's little else in this world that gives and doesn't take besides such heartfelt expression.
Return then lastly to the first work by Lacey, BEAM! (2000). This was the work that put its foot into sandy The Beach Boys camp. Comparisons to Brian Wilson were heaped at Lacey, and heck, Lacey invited some of it upon himself by including Smile historian Domenic Priore's liner notes. The signifying song on BEAM!, for me, is "Treasure" - the rebirth of the FM pop song; the declaration of a new artist who has stepped forth from the dark corners of obscurity and into the self-made sunlight that now his fans want to share. I can see now that "Treasure" was, in some small way, a prophetic statement - not exactly in its lyrical content, but in the sense of opening a treasure chest and seeing so much gold that you can't see bottom; such is the development of Lacey's oeuvre.
The best part of this analysis is that Peter Lacey's work is current and ongoing, so I can't put a definitive 'period' on where he's going next. But like all good Art, there's a degree of friendship (albeit one-sided, on the part of the Artist) being extended to the listener or viewer. Friends return with unconditional affection; and those real friends reinvent new ways of expressing that affection or marvel, not allowing past glories to serve as be-all and end-all. And the best of friends give the next impending visit a sense of excitement. You wait by the window for them to appear on the sidewalk in front of your house. And I can safely say, there are a lot of people happily waiting for Lacey's next work.
The above article is from OPEN SKY issue #5, used with kind permission by the editor Chris Allen. To find out more about this fab magazine and to get a copy of the whole issue, visit
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