Savoury-Toothed Tiger (marveline.bandcamp.com)
So, it does pay to have been around the block a couple of times.
There’s a lifetime of pop music inculcation in this debut from Peter Marley, who has been making music for decades, in bands which funked, some which rocked, some which jangled and others which looked a few questionable genres in the eye and didn’t blink.
From logo design to knowing the right mix of home recording, studio polish and clever friends needed to sound like your tracks are worth playing through computer speakers and flash systems, the experience is obvious here.
But the most telling part of that is not that Marley’s got the know-how to make a belated solo project – anyone with a home studio and time can, and too often does, do that – it’s that he’s retained his enthusiasm for the pleasures of pop music.
Savoury-Toothed Tiger, from pun title on, is like someone set free to just play and a whole summer’s day in which to do so.
From the vocodered voice and lounge music rhythm (and organ) of the silly/fun Something Sweet and the wistful character out-of-his-time of the very Kinks-like In The Garden, to the twin-‘90s mix of Seattle sound (and subject matter) overlayed with indie pop in Bright Lights Of Despair, and the none-more-‘70s faux brass/flute/congas/strutting bass of (Theme For An Imaginary) Cop Show, this is an adventurous sortie.
If that sound like it might be a box ticking exercise, one that would include a moment where he says hey, how about we do a kind of Avalanches instrumental collage without actually using samples and call it Magic Umbrellar, there’s two things to counteract that notion of formula. One, Magic Umbrellar sounds like a clever piece of work that actually makes you picture a psych lightshow and an English garden at the same time. And two, the enthusiasm feels genuine and infectious.
After all Marley, who doesn’t exactly have an idealist’s view of the world right now, is someone who is perfectly capable of handclaps and pure sunshine in Another Perfect Day, of being Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding in the golden years XTC of Monkey Mind (full of very Swindon self-deprecating couplets like “Try to keep it simple/I’m not the brainiac I used to be” and “Mr Darwin take a bow and show me how my brain got in this mess/I like to think that I’m evolving, somedays all I do is regress”)) and is not afraid to show it.
And just when you think you’ve got the idea as you see the album’s last track is Go To Sleep – ah, right, a gentle song of slumber to send us on our way – Marley gives us a sharp, bitter-edged lyric of something much darker within the dreamy lullaby.
That’s a lot of territory, and pleasures - and I haven’t even mentioned the spirals of melody, psych colours and power pop guitar in Turpentine.
Yeah, he hasn’t wasted those years.