North Peckham Skyline Review

Joe Presley on ...

I Didn’t know what to expect on first receiving the master of North Peckham Skyline. All this talk of demo quality, single takes and minimal overdubs, had me worried I would be locked into a gruesome lo-fi amateur hour of acoustic chill-out, whilst desperately waiting to get back to that old Minstry album I’d just dug out.

My fears were soon dispelled, and my faith in Right Back Record’s ethos restored, by the first short scene-setting track – the ‘Major Tom’ acoustic, reverb soaked harmonics+ Springsteen harmonica left me lost in a daydream halfway through Greenwich foot tunnel.

The second track continues to build a somewhat plaintive, wistful, maybe gently melancholic mood. The lyrics are fantastic, difficult to interpret or pin down totally, with some great one liners. Is this a tale of ambition lost, self-doubt + insecurity, or a quick, self re-assuring conversation with yourself, a string of idle thoughts? (Al Pacino pops up again as in several references through the Opposition back catalogue, so I’ll plump for the more serious interpretation!)

The melancholy seems to grow in ‘She Goes Down’ , a more simplistic love song but still with great, clever lyrics, with an extra dash of anguish provided by the return of harmonica, and the tinny acoustic like a Country + Western banjo kicking in some white man blues.

The fourth track seems to underline this section of the recording, with a constant recurring theme, and a close intensity of guitars, but like a question mark for the future. It could become a Cocteau Twins – ish 20 minute classic, a massive power chord big kit epic, or just exist as is???

The fifth track opens with what I hope was an old fashioned tape loop echo on echo feedback, which had me feeling nostalgic before the track even started. The lyrics are somewhat drowned in the mix which is a little disappointing, but there’s enough , and the mood is strong with a mixture of playing styles and the adition of keyboards giving a percussive emphasis and a surprisingly driven full sound. (It was reminiscent for me of Minuteman and a track off their album ‘Resigned to Life’ from 2002 – a top tip!). A mixture of vocal ranges gives dramatic changes of sound and that harmonica towards the end hints again at some kind of haunting anticipation.

‘ Last Summer’ brought me to mind initially of willie Nelson collaborating with David Lynch, but soon builds beyond that and beyond, and the uplift into the main body of the track is fantastic. Hammondy organ adds to the heartfelt yearning for a different way of life, memories, something or someone lost forever? At the end I was on a balcony with a beer at sunset.

Sideways On is a beautiful simple track, but still with questions being asked – nothing is quite as straightforward as it seems throughout these tracks.

Track 8 at the start puts me in the lounge of a Twin Peaks hotel with a wooden Indian on the porch. The menace and unease of the fuzz guitar is at contrast with the opening track from which this builds on. It’s another contradiction and another underline .

The final track has a short continuing theme which again echoes the constant questioning theme of this song with a nagging element of self-doubt. A full stop on the collection.

All in all NPS would be an ideal sound track for a steamy balmy late night when you are on holiday, reflecting on your confusions in life, but not that hard cos the beers cold and life is briefly great. A few more hours on and something will be dragging you back to think again along a different line, to pick up a different interpretation on life’s ordinary ups and downs.

Its late – I’m off to the fridge.

Joe Presley July 2004