Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Only Ones

  • Special View [Epic, 1979] A-
  • Baby's Got a Gun [Epic, 1980] B+
  • The Peel Sessions [Strange & Beautiful Music, 1991] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Special View [Epic, 1979]
Dry, witty, and unassumingly polysyllabic, his sentiment sheathed in irony, Peter Perrett is a bemused/distressed/displaced romantic with an uncanny command of conventional hard rock--like a nice Lou Reed, or Ray Davies gone to college. Which means he's a new waver mostly by historical association. This selection from his first two British albums (plus one single) is an ideal introduction to an artist who may be major if he sticks at it. A-

Baby's Got a Gun [Epic, 1980]
Prepunk and for that matter prepub, Peter Perrett may well have been an only one, and he fits in now only because this is such a tolerant and/or commercially desperate time. He's not "power pop," of course--on record, at least, power's got nothing to do with it. With his lazy drawl tightrope-walking on the cusp of the love-death continuum, he's just a perversely if not insincerely wistful rock and roll balladeer who hopes you'll sleep with him and will get peeved if you don't--vulnerably seductive now, but don't be surprised if he quickly starts demanding specialties. B+

The Peel Sessions [Strange & Beautiful Music, 1991]
Like the rest of the series, their compendium preserves every song they chose to try out for Uncle John, the BBC, and the great unwashed, including second-raters like the indecisive "In Betweens." But except for "The Whole of the Law" (available on Epic's now-digitalized Special View), this hits the high spots. Because they always played better than the classic pop band they never really were, Peel's demand that bands lay down four songs in a day of recording--half-live, as it were--gets the part of their groove that studio polish glossed over. And such new-ones-on-me as "Oh No," "Language Problem," and "Telescopic Love" are why people think they were a pop band. A-