Monday, March 14, 2016

Bill Pritchard, Mother Town Hall, 2016

Album Review

By Henry Lipput

“Saturn And Co.,” the first track on Bill Pritchard’s wonderful new album Mother Town Hall, is a terrifically melodic way to open the disc. It has some female backing vocals that sound like something from a 60’s British black and white movie -- perhaps an imagined Georgy Girl sequel.

But it’s the second song, “Mont St. Michel,“ that knocked me out. It’s just gorgeous and brings to mind the best work of Burt Bacharach and Pet Sounds-era Brian Wilson. It’s that good. Pritchard sings about a rehabilitation of sorts: “I started to get well in Mont St. Michel“ and “I got out of Hell in Mont St. Michel.” The tune is lovely and Pritchard’s good spirits are contagious.

Then you wonder: Can he keep this up? And he does with the next song, “My First Friendship,“ about the relationship between a boy and the music he hears on the radio, “a bit of plastic was my first friendship... I heard you through the walls, the door, and the floor.” There’s also the Ray Davies-sounding “September Haze” which perfectly captures the feeling of “August people in the summer heat” being “lost for days in September haze,” as summer ends and before autumn begins. “Yes, the view is paradise/it’s color-perfect/and the view would be twice as nice/if I spent it with you.”

The lyrics for “Déjà vu Boutique” are a little ambiguous but I love this bit: “A romance to put the lights out. Now I bathe in perpetual sunlight.” The terrific piano and stings arrangement for the song is perfect (The violin at the end is very Brodsky Quartet.).

“Lily Anne” and “Victorious” are profiles of characters that could be related to that iconic sad sack Eleanor Rigby. The woman in the first song is described as being “physically bloated and mentally lean“ but somehow “she became front page news.” The man in “Victorious” doesn‘t like poetry or nature. He will “wallow in an armchair with a tray” and “always took the same bus after dark.”

“Heaven” is an upbeat, mandolin-based song that reminds me of a certain television theme written by one of my long-time favorites Vonda Shepard. And “Mother Tongue” is about a long-distance relationship with a Preservation-era Kinks horn arrangement and a minor hook not unlike the one in Paul Simon’s “The Only Living Boy In New York City.”

Mother Town Hall is one of the most beautiful pop records I’ve heard in a long time. When you listen, try not to smile or swoon. You’ve been warned.

Bill Pritchard’s Mother Town Hall is available now on Tapete Records.

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