Pete Muller, |
Just One Lifetime
The first track, "A Safe Place To Lie," is a sad, gentle tune with words reminding me a little of Janis Ian's "Restless Eyes" -- a woman trapped, of her own volition, in an unsatisfactory and stifling relationship. "Run Away" continues the dual theme of staying in comfort while feeling uneasy remaining there.
Pete Muller wrote all the songs on Just One Lifetime except for his cover of "Norwegian Wood." He co-wrote "I Wish I Had a Madman" (alluding to Cortez's conquest of Mexico, when he burned his own ships to remove the option of retreat to Spain). He also plays the piano -- the other musicians go unacknowledged on the CD, but his website clarifies that his thanks "for doing a great job on the tunes" are to Ben Hoyumpa on drums and Catherine Popper on bass. Lisa Batten on backing vocals receives thanks for "hours spent at the piano working out harmonies."
Muller's lyrics are original and emotional, beautifully constructed and truly poetic, and the music, naturally, complements them. Although of overall sombre demeanour, his songs are far from depressing; they're more deeply thought-provoking. It is not easy to slot Muller into a single category, other than talented singer-songwriter. He's vocally somewhere between Al Stewart and Cat Stevens -- musically, there are hints of jazz, while ballads predominate. The pace is measured and unhurried, and momentary reminders of Leonard Cohen aree overwhelmed by Muller's innate and unique style.
Reading the words, printed out on a neatly designed cover, is like falling headfirst into the poetry of Rod McKuen and Brian Patten. Every song, like one of those perspective-fooling pictures, can be taken to mean one thing or another all together, depending on your mood -- it could be a vase, or it could be a portrait! Clever without being pretentious, these demand attentive listening and cannot be consigned to a background blur. Profound insights into life and circumstance, vivid descriptions of characters who become very real, Muller tells stories that hold the listeners' interest like a light mesmerizes a moth.
"The Song Inside Your Head" begins in a description of a dysfunctional boy locked in his own mind's world and ends with tender desires to shelter a loved one from anger and pain. "I'm Not That Man," a sorry tale of infidelity from the perspective of the guilty man, unexpectedly provokes sympathy and an urge to forgive. "Danielle" is a bittersweet reminiscence, considering with hindsight the unforeseen tragedy of a free spirit. The title track is a tender love song, but by this time one is waiting for the twist in the tale, the sorrow enclosed in the joy, the doubts of reality shadowing the brightness of hope.
Do not be lulled into thinking all is despondency -- far from it, the next song contains a positive message for us all: "Pick a song you like and turn it up to ten/On this one thing your happiness depends/You choose what you amplify my friend." He then continues his more cheerful trend, with an innuendo-laden invitation to "Miss Jones," object of his fantasies! His final song, "Chasing Another Man's Dreams," maintains a lively feeling musically, balancing the soul-searching lyrics of the song.
Muller seems addicted to presenting the contrasts, the yin and yang, the silver lining and the cloud. Two sides of the same coin, but one gets good value with Just One Lifetime.
Delightful in his originality, Muller addresses emotive issues with an unusual depth of perspective. His complete lack of banality and repetition ensures an appreciative audience that he has already credited with intelligence and empathy. How refreshing!