After Bauhaus, singer Peter Murphy joined Mick Karn (ex-Japan) and a no-name drummer to form Dalis Car, whose one album mixed Japan’s sensuous sound with Bauhaus’ obsequious lyrical constructs. As a mellifluous noise, The Waking Hour is fine, if a bit heavy on the bass; dig any deeper, however, and what you get is a hollow attempt to create art without any redeeming artistry.
Moving on to a solo career, Murphy made his debut with Should the World Fail to Fall Apart. Guitarist/keyboard player Howard Hughes (no relation to the late mogul, one assumes) co-wrote and co-produced this dreamy, mildly experimental effort that makes good use of modest understatement. If Murphy could remove the melodrama from his delivery, a lot of the songs might have been quite nice. But even at low volume and languorous tempo, he can’t shake the old goth theatrics out of his voice. He almost pulls it off in “Canvas Beauty,” an appealing wash of fretless bass and synthetic horns, but winds up doing a frightening vocal imitation of mid-period Moody Blues. And that’s as good as it gets. Covering Magazine’s “The Light Pours Out of Me” and Pere Ubu’s “Final Solution” probably seemed like good, culturally resonant ideas at the time, but the awkward results are far from impressive.
Keyboardist Paul Statham co-wrote Love Hysteria, an album on which Murphy’s commanding baritone contrasts with brittle, airy music built on a dual fixation with Lodger-era Bowie and the group Japan. (At its most commercial, however, the record resembles the Fixx.) Regardless of stylistic intent, the pompous pseudo-babble lyrics and keyboardist/guitarist Simon Rogers’ horrible production (the sound has almost no bottom) makes this of interest only to implacable Bauhaus fanatics.
Having covered “Funtime” (from The Idiot) on Love Hysteria, Murphy added an ominous Iggy Pop impression to his colorful repertoire on Deep. Using the same crowd — Statham, Rogers, bassist Eddie Branch, guitarist Peter Bonas — as the previous album, Murphy shifted into simple dance-rock, extrapolating what Bowie might sound like fronting, say, Modern English. Actually, Deep isn’t bad — multi-tracking the vocals and swamping them in thick pop instrumentation softens Murphy’s voice (whose control has clearly improved) to the point of easy listening. Where Deep sinks is in the songwriting: amid the few nicely rounded melodies are dead serious songs with titles like “The Line Between the Devil’s Teeth (And That Which Cannot Be Repeat!)” and “Marlene Dietrich’s Favourite Poem.” Released as a single, the peppy rock danceability of “Cuts You Up” even gained Murphy a measure of American commercial success. (There’s one bonus track on the CD and cassette.)
Murphy apparently spent all his songwriting reserves on Deep; Holy Smoke is thoroughly uninspired, an album of, at best, halfhearted clichés and, at worst, risible stupidity. In “The Sweetest Drop,” a belated tribute to Duran Duran attempting to sound like Bryan Ferry, he strives to describe sex as if it were an 18th century museum exhibit on tour with Journey: “Concur and swallow me / Explode, secrete your tender…give me what I thirst…press towards the burst…Give the thunder up / Rocking to the top.” Although he elsewhere has the temerity to use the title “Hit Song,” at least the tune’s lyrics concern nothing at all. The fleeting sparks of life here — the suavely laid-back throb of “Keep Me From Harm” and the gritty “Low Room” — are not nearly enough to salvage this mess. The You’re So Close EP is worth seeking out for its live versions of songs from Deep (a ferocious “Line Between the Devil’s Teeth,” a shimmery extended take on “Cuts You Up”) and Love Hysteria (“All Night Long”).
Following a relocation to Turkey, Murphy made the much-improved Cascade. If not as awe-inspiring as Deep, the album is mercifully free of Holy Smoke‘s obvious commercial ambitions. “The Scarlet Thing in You” (also the title track of a four-song EP containing a live version of “Dragnet Drag” and an album outtake) does aim at the Top 40, but with honest exuberance and a real melody. “Huuvola,” a gorgeous, drifting ballad, surrounds Murphy with an aura of romance and mystery, as does the more surreal, unstructured title track. Pascal Gabriel (EMF, Inspiral Carpets) produced; Michael Brook contributes “infinite guitar.”