The following phrases inarguably describe Australian pop/rock musician Peter Rechter's output throughout his six decades of gifting us with his music: "very clever or ingenious"; "a person who is exceptionally creative in some particular respect"; "exerting a powerful influence over another for good"; "exceptionally creative power." These phrases also happen to be the dictionary definition of the word genius.
Genius is a word way too often tossed around cavalierly in modern society; in Peter Rechter's case, genius is almost too humble a word in representing his music.
Be it from his early days of Peter & the Silhouettes (whose "Claudette Jones" remains one of the most-covered songs by pop, cult, and garage bands), to his Ginger and The Secrets periods in the seventies & eighties (with whom he was joined by fellow Australian musician and occasional co-writer, Joe Mandica), and throughout his most prolific albums with his Tol-Puddle Martyrs, Peter Rechter always challenges us, entertains us, and invites us to expand our thought processes.
With his latest Tol-Puddle Martyrs album, 2019's Brain Fade, Peter's band is represented by its founder and leader, Rechter himself, along with Graham McCoy, guitarist extraordinaire and vocal harmonizer to Rechter's lead vocals and drummer Chris Crook, whose always steady, reliable, and pleasantly innovative drumming perfectly complement Rechter's virtuoso keyboard playing. The three Australian mates have recorded together before, and Brain Fade benefits from their previous collaborations.
Fans of Peter Rechter (and this album will certainly spawn new admirers to join his already faithful legion of followers) will recognize the themes that have established Rechter's style over the years.
One of his defining themes is paying homage to those musical artists that have inspired him over the years. An unabashed fan of the Kinks, and especially Ray Davies' writing style, Peter's style can be found to mirror that of Davies. The Beatles have inspired many a successful musician, and Rechter is no exception. His recording studio is peppered (Sgt. Peppered?) with Fab memorabilia, and one imagines Peter glancing around his studio as he weaves his own tuneful magic.
Rechter's keyboard expertise (organ and piano) has been inspired by Rod Argent.
All of these musical inspirations are evident on Brain Fade.
Another of Peter's themes is that he has always been a socially-conscious artist (especially in his Tol-Puddle Martyrs works); he never shies away from making a statement he feels is important to him. It is to his credit that Rechter's music is so melodic and enjoyable, thereby making his message more accessible; we want to get into each song. It is also part of his genius that those familiar with Rechter's work can identify a song as a Tol-Puddle Martyrs composition, yet it rarely (if ever) sounds like any of his other tunes.
Brain Fade's "The Fall" is one of those socially-conscious tunes. It takes on Australia's banking industry, and how it was found to be charging fees for services they never performed and knowingly giving poor stock advice: "Give it all back, Jack / Don't you know you crossed the line / What you took was mine."
Peter's muse in more than a few of his songs is his wife of fifty-plus years, his beloved Sue. "Paralysed" was inspired by Rechter seeing Sue for the first time: "So happy to concede...mesmerized...I fell down to my knees..."
With "Paralysed," he was looking for a "Kinksy, riff-y, snotty-nosed vocal," like those reminiscent of his esteemed Davies brothers' band.
Watch the video for "Paralyzed":
And Peter's Ginger band days are represented by the song, "In the City," in the Angelica Huston film, Thirst Street.
There are other songs used in other film and television productions, so when Peter sings, "It's so satisfying / Spent my whole life tryin'", we have tears of joys welling up in our eyes for this self-proclaimed "lucky man."
He echoes this sentiment in "One Step Away": "Only one step away from breaking through / One step changes it all..."
The musicianship of Rechter, McCoy, and Crook was alluded to earlier. Never was this more evident than on "Get Over It." Not unlike the band, Chicago, the guitar, brass, and percussive trade-off is brilliant.
Rechter does not suffer fools gladly; in "Get Over It," the listener is pretty much told to get over those little "hiccups" we all encounter in life; worse things can happen to us...Don't magnify things and lose sleep over them.
The Kinks, The Beatles...Peter adds Jeff Lynne/ELO to those he shows admiration for on Brain Fade.
ELO's "Mr. Blue Sky" has a cousin! "Undercover" displays that infectious pounding beat, yet it's used effectively in conveying the heart-pounding life of a secret agent. Rechter allows us to dream along with him: "I've always wanted to be a secret agent man," as he's willing to "...place my life on hold."
Who hasn't wanted to flirt with danger...from the safety of our imagination, courtesy of Peter, that is...
As one gets deeper into Peter's music, he becomes a friend, albeit, one whom most of his fans have never met. Yet we do know him, through his music; the sure sign of a great communicator such as Rechter.
"There's a junk shop on the corner with the past all on display..."
In the song, "Junk," Peter reminds us that one person's "junk" is another person's "treasure." Is this tune a microcosm of his six-decade career in music? If so, we're hard-pressed to find any "junk"; just plenty of treasures.
The treasure of Rechter's keyboard brilliance is on full display in "Mother Child Connection." McCoy's wah-wah guitar and the beauty of Graham and Peter's harmonies abound. Oh yes, and have I mentioned Chris Crook's ever-steady drums? (Don't worry, I'm not a victim of a "brain fade;" I simply can't mention Crook's drums enough.)
Did someone mention a "brain fade"? Once again, in the title track to his album, Rechter shows us we're all in this life together; we've all gone into the kitchen, only to wonder why we went in there in the first place! "In the wider scheme of things, it doesn't matter / Don't let your world be shattered." We'll get through things; very little in life is a fait accompli.
Even when "...you're unaware of what to do," as in the song, "The Unexpected," Peter's advice is spot on: "Take a deep look inside your heart."
David Bowie told us that we can be heroes, if just for one day. And while I suspect Peter Rechter is a huge fan of David Bowie, I'm not surprised to hear Rechter sing, "We need a hero to show the way / A certified hero for more than one day." ("Certified Hero")
Yes, life throws us the unexpected, the "brain fades" that constantly test our idealism, but our friend, Peter, assures us we can all rise above it.
For in the perfect end to this flawless album, when we get our acts in motion, we can sit across from each other and have "Two Coffees," knowing that "So long doesn't have to be long / "Too much doesn't really mean much."
P.S. Peter is already ready working on his next album...