For over 35 years Pete Astor has been at the vanguard of modern British music, be it fronting the early Creation Records group The Loft and its acclaimed mid-80s offspring The Weather Prophets or getting downright experimental as The Wisdom of Harry, his wholly underappreciated art-pop act on Matador Records, and its’ current electro-folk offshoot Ellis Island Sound. But it is when this senior lecturer at the University of Westminster records under his own auspices does his genius as a singer and songwriter really come into focus.
When he returned to the solo world in 2011 with Songbox, he picked up right where he had left off during his small run of acclaimed LPs for the Danceteria label in the early 90s with a collection of charming and unabashedly English pop. And with the excellent Spilt Milk, he’s conspired perhaps his best work under his own auspices yet. Working in collaboration with some of the most talented minds in both UK and US indie rock, including Pam Berry of Black Tambourine, Male Bonding’s Robin Christian and Feathers drummer Susan Milavoic, these 10 new tunes channel a sonic lineage in underground guitar pop that jetsets from the offices of Flying Nun in Christchurch, NZ, to the absurdist songbook of Egyptians-era Robyn Hitchcock to the dour sweetness of Scotland’s C86 movement without even trying to do so. Yet Spilt Milk doesn’t play out like some kinda college radio karaoke trip. Astor was one of the first musicians to emerge from the English post-punk scene to bring that distinctive jangle to the fore, so evidenced on such classic Loft songs as “Time”, “Why Does The Rain” and “Winter”. Chances are the likes of The Verlaines, The Orchids and even the old Soft Boy himself were absorbing the inspiration that emanated from those 7-inches when they were creating their own classic material. So when you are listening to a cut like “Mr. Music” or “Sleeping Tiger”, you experience this
And there is a strong sense of naturalism that exists in these songs, only distilled to a refined blend of steadiness and pulchritude exhibited in material like “Really Something” and “Very Good Luck.”