Review: Singer/Songwriter Pete Astor Returns to Explore His ‘Time On Earth’

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Pete Astor
Time on Earth
(Tapete)
4 out of 5 stars

You don’t have to be an Anglophile or reside in the UK to know about singer/songwriter Pete Astor, but it helps. Much of the moderate yet enthusiastic acclaim he has received from a music career that began in 1983 with his band The Loft, followed by Weather Prophets, and has continued intermittently over almost 40 years, generates from moderate hits in his home country. Solo, he has crafted eleven albums since 1987. This is the fourth since a burst of inspiration and creativity picked up in 2016.

Astor’s songs and voice land midway between Al Stewart, The Kinks, and Luna’s material, straddling a late 80s/early 90s easy flow. There are connections to American music, but this is more of a British take on slightly retro pop. Astor’s boyish vocals are charming and far from slick as his songs reflect an often dark, humorous streak.

That’s the case with  “Undertaker” whose lyrics of  Let’s go down to the undertaker/And put what’s left of you in the incinerator/…You seemed so important once / That’s not the case anymore barely hide a smirk behind his relaxed voice and smooth, flowing melody. On the title track, he recounts the tale of an alien from Saturn who starts a family on earth then mysteriously disappears with And no one even knew your name/ You were just spending time on earth again.

The music by Astor and his quartet bubbles along without much fuss, allowing the singer to spin off onto often quirky, conceptual tangents that you’ll have to listen closely or read along to, to appreciate fully. The album’s centerpiece is the near eight-minute “English Weather,” a treatise on aging, approached from an oblique angle as Astor talk/sings in a Lou Reed-styled drawl The matriarch is holding her favorite gun / She’s dancing at the disco pointing it at everyone / She’s made of plastic and she’s higher than the sun as a sax appears out of nowhere to add a bluesy streak. The sadness of unaccompanied patrons looking for companionship at a local pub is explored in the tender “Stay Lonely Tonight.”

There’s plenty to ponder, but Astor’s unruffled, mellifluous voice and inviting, often sweet melodies make it go down so easy that listeners will be entranced by the music before digging into the often askew concepts. Subtle pop elements float by like barely remembered dreams for songs that once they take hold, stay stuck in your brain, waiting to be played again.   

Photo by Elena Ferreras Carreras

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