(Custom Made Music)
by Scott Deckman
Trippy. Hypnotic. Opiates. Pot. LSD. Drug music, that’s what Pete International Airport‘s eponymous debut is. The band itself is a side project from Dandy Warhols’ guitarist Peter Holmström, and the name of the band is taken from “Pete International Airport,” a song from the Dandy’s second record, The Dandy Warhols Come Down. If this effort is any indication, it was Holmström who brought the Dandified drone and atmospherics and Courtney Taylor-Taylor the pop to the band, a group who made two very good records during the waning years of the alt rock empire. (Well, Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia was released when it was already dead, but that’s another subject.) I don’t know how much cute-as-a-button keyboardist Zia McCabe brought to the project – nor their two drummers, for that matter – but it doesn’t matter, she’s fun to look at. But I’m a pop traditionalist, in the sense that I think the three-minute song filled with hooks usually works best. Pete International Airport is more Velvety drone with Pro Tools, or whatever program they’re using.
Regardless, here we go. Pass the hookah.
In Jsun Adams, Holmström found an even more somnambulant singer than Taylor-Taylor. In fact, that celebrated hipster sounds downright energetic compared to this sleepy moaner. To be honest, Adams sounds a little like the dudes from that late-’80s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure-ish Twisted Tune “Death by Misadventure” that was featured on Baltimore’s 98 Rock back in the day (and apparently still is; I heard it recently when I was “forced” to listen to the radio).
Single “21 Days” is catchy, and is one of the three best songs on the record, with Adams crooning about his black motorcycle. “Beatle Boots & Battle Scars” is a spacey, poppy number where Adams name-drops Portland alum James Mercer and the Shins and Bob Dylan, throws out quasi-philosophical statements like “take a punch on the chin” and “universe is changing shape,” all while “escaping from the belly of the whale.” These lyrics rhyme (excepting the one about the whale), but the vocals are so mumbled you can’t understand much of it. When you’re high, what does make sense?
“Starlight” is a cosmic Western if there ever was one, searching for the frontier on Jupiter or Saturn. It’s pretty, laid-back and features a steady percussive beat of unknown origin, though, like some of the other songs on the record, it goes on too long and is unfocused. Pink Floydish “George the 2nd” pushes the narcotic trance into something akin to Syd Barrett lysergic madness. But as madness goes, it’s a lullaby, and possibly the record’s strongest track. And it’s funny because the guitar’s not featured as prominently here as it is on some of the other songs, proving, if anything, Holmström was born to make soundscapes. Druggy soundscapes. In fact, many weird noises, synthetics, and percussive instruments are utilized on Pete International Airport, including some Middle Eastern outré fare on “New Eastern.” Send-off “I Care” is an esoteric 10-minute-plus grower that seems to fulfill the album’s ultimate mission: To chill you the (add either expletive of choice) out, while getting baked or not. It’s a long song that, for whatever reason, doesn’t wear out its welcome.
I can smell the patchouli.
Despite some cool sounds and atmosphere so thick as to induce a contact high, ultimately Pete International Airport misses the mark for me. But that doesn’t mean you won’t like it and call me a stuffy old curmudgeon. I’ve been called worse, and it’s a label I wear proudly.