Reviews and Interviews: Peter Blegvad & Andy Partridge: Gonwards
Reviews: Interviews: More info...

The New Yorker
November 26, 2012
(December 3, 2012 issue)

Olivia Zangoli
Pop Notes: The Peter Princible

“First build a body,” Peter Blegvad says at the beginning of “Gonwards” (Ape House), a new album-length collaboration with Andy Partridge that extends both men's bodies of work. The two are old friends and frequent collaborators: Partridge, who was a cornerstone of the brilliantly jumpy New Wave band XTC, produced a number of Blegvad's albums, including “Naked Shakespeare,”, from 1983; part of “King Strut,” from 1990; and all of “Orpheus—The Lowdown,” from 2004. This album most resembles the last of these: Blegvad occasionally sings, but just as often his lyrics are delivered in a Beat poet's cadence, and Partridge furnishes kitchen-sink musical backing that isn't content to stay in the background.

The results, as they were thirty years ago (and twenty, and ten), are provocative and playful, with a streak of dark humor. “The Devil's Lexicon,” the fierce opener, is followed by the off-kilter “Sacred Objects,” which investigates how, and why, humans invest value in the world around them. It's a theme that has preoccupied Blegvad throughout his career; “Gold,” a country-folk ballad from

“King Strut” that remains one of his career highlights, is a breathtakingly lyrical speculation on financial and romantic value. This philosophical bent is all over “Gonwards.” The breezy love song ‘St. Augustine Says” quotes liberally from the Bishop of Hippo on the interdependence of body and soul (“In no wise are bodies themselves to be spurned, for these pertain not to ornament or aid which is applied from without, but to the very nature of man”). “Looking at the Sun” anatomizes the differences between parents and children (‘Large tells Little not to look at the sun/You'll go blind and that's no fun”). And the closer, “Worse on the Way,” offers a bracingly pessimistic example of gypsy cabaret (‘What seems like work and sorrow today/Will seem tomorrow like pleasure and play”). The album's hub is “The Cryonic Trombone,” a chilling nearly eight-minute piece about the uses and misuses of a mysterious silver instrument. Partridge at his most minimalist here, and the song sounds like an especially vibrant reading of a short story.

—Ben Greenman

[Thanks to Ian Pearson]

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13 February 2021