Whether it’s a boon or a hindrance, a cross to bear that conveniently elevates him above the pack, it’s still difficult to evaluate the solo work of Peter Murphy without the spectre of Bauhaus looming large. Regardless of how many artistic twists and turns Murphy has enjoyed throughout his career, challenging expectation has always remained on the forefront of his mind. As was shown on Bauhaus’ 2008 stillborn studio reunion Go Away White, the past belongs in the past. Lets leave it there and move on along.
Aptly titled, Ninth is Murphy’s ninth solo album and his most engaging and spirited solo release to date. All things considered, and you often forget rock n’ roll is a young man’s game, that this is an impressive feat for a remarkably ageless 54 year old. This is no sit down and wallow in my empty indulgences moment. Ninth is the album Go Away White should’ve been. And how odd it is that these days Murphy’s bristling baritone bears more semblance to Iggy Pop than the Bowie croon of old. Listen to opener “Velocity Bird” and not be surprised at its livewire Stooges swagger.
It’s hard to deny that Ninth is anything but a rock record. It’s forceful in its delivery and singular in its vision, something you get from a band making an album with no confusion about what they’re doing and what it’s going to sound like. Strengthened by big chorus numbers like “Seesaw Sway” and “I Spit Roses” Murphy is on fire and on form, and for this you can probably allow him the odd preening moment (“Never Fall Out”) or songs that fall a few inches short of being a full Nine Inch Nails (“Uneven & Brittle”). If Bauhaus’ deserted swansong was called Go Away White, perhaps the real title of the album should be Welcome Back Black.