In the same way it has been played on stage for at least the past 2 years, Home Alone passes you a shot of the cocktail of fear, frustration, drive and self-pity that Bibby sips on while stoned at home. He tells us he’s paranoid, and then that he’s bulletproof (“I’m like a drugged up Al Capone, if you cross me/Your little wife will be all alone”). Finally, he’s Macaulay Culkin. Don’t worry Peter, you’re better than a fallen child star.
While the meaning of track 5, Hates My Boozin' is clear as day, track 6 leaves a few questions to be asked. Friends tells the story of a day in the life of Peter Bibby, or one of his characters, after meeting someone new in the park. Lyrically this is the standout of the record, and it confirms Peter’s status as one of Perth’s best songwriters. It is also, for me, a highlight of his live shows. The story is a straightforward retelling of events, but finishes with the mysterious disappearance and return of his new friend. “Yeah I woke up and you were gone but you were back before too long” suggests to me that this song isn’t about an actual person, but rather a mood or personality of Bibby’s (that brings the bottle of whiskey and a pack of ciggies). I definitely could be over-interpreting this song…. Either way, it points to his ability to seemingly lay all his cards down on the table while still making you think there’s something he’s hiding up his sleeve. If Peter was a screenwriter his movies would really piss me off.
The wordsmithery continues in Stinkin Rich, a ballad of his rise and demise from rags to riches back to rags. This song screams Australia, describing the indulgent lifestyles of excessive spending which rings true to the lives of our country’s past celebrities (“I’ll buy a football team, start the world’s best pie shop”). Its gentle final note on the poverty of a has-been allows for an easy transition into the sombre feeling of Red XF Falcon – a reminiscence of Peter’s journey with a lover on a Perth to Margaret River round trip to see Eddy Current Suppression Ring. It hits the nail on the head in describing our tendency to couple fond memories with transitory objects – in this case, her Dad’s Red XF Falcon.
The penultimate track, No More Sleepovers, continues the relationship theme but in a less affectionate manner. The journey here slips in to the months after the ‘honeymoon’ period of a relationship has come to an end – when you realise there is more effort than reward, but tell yourself that the relationship is surely good for you. A tune of Bibby’s which doesn’t appear on this album, I Wish You Were Dead, would do well to complete a trilogy of love songs starting with Red XF Falcon and with No More Sleepovers in the middle.
When we saw Peter at the Workers Club, Cunt was anthemic. Allbrook and Avery joined in belting out the chorus, and it took the show to new heights. Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician closes with this song, but in a much more sentimental tone. Instead of being a celebration of Midland’s finest station rat, as it once was, it is a reminder that Peter’s music isn’t about himself. Rather, it is about the personalities, physical and emotional, that he has come across during his life as a musician.
It does seem like a shame that Peter couldn’t give Johnny a goodbye kiss (“I would hate to pass this flu onto you/So I’ll just wave goodbye to you”). A music video was recently released for this song. It depicts the crushing tale of a man deserting his friend without a proper farewell. The viewer is treated to an emotional portrayal of a young musician weeping in bed over his broken heart and swollen glands. Scorsese couldn’t have done better.
Peter Bibby’s music contains the character that is sometimes lacking in folk music. It only takes a few lines of the opening track for one to begin forming an image in their head of the person, or persons, he portrays. The anger in his lyrics is sometimes honest but usually sarcastic. More eye-opening though is when the doors are opened into the emotions of a different Peter Bibby; love – in Red XF Falcon, affection – in Friends, and ambition – Stinking Rich. All are detailed in an open and honest fashion.
In February, prior to a Pond show at the Corner Hotel, myself and the other two contributors to this website (Michael and James) had the opportunity to sink a brew with Nick Allbrook. I brought up the album and told him I was vibing it heavily (Allbrook plays drums, keys and sings on the record, and still performs as a bottle).
“Yeah he’s a pretty good writer isn’t he.” He said.
I replied, “I just love the character. His anger brings a lot to it.”
“I wouldn’t say he’s angry. Not as angry as some people think.” Says Nick.
Michael jumps in with a smile – “Deep down he’s probably just a sweet little kitten.”
Allbrook looks up at him and smirks. “I wouldn’t go that far.”
This is Johnny.
Tahlia Isabel Palmer's album artwork is as intriguing as the music it surrounds
As far as folk music goes for Peter Bibby, River Guts (track 2) is the peak. Musically, it hints to Guthrie, Dylan and (on a more recent note) Father John Misty. Whether he is influenced by any of these musicians, I don’t know. The song would be placed well in a folk music mix featuring them though. Lyrically, this song is pure Bibby.
The third track, Bat and Ball, comes to an end with him scowling the lyrics. While it’s a positive note (suggesting that he and a friend played indoor cricket repeatedly, possibly to an extent which endangered their health), the delivery introduces a key characteristic of this album – Peter’s ability to move seamlessly between aggression and affection. Lucas Glickman, recording and mixing the album in Collingwood, has captured it perfectly.
As I write this, Bibby is resting a recently sprained ankle while in the USA. He has been invited to perform at SXSW 2015. It is a benchmark of success for Australian musicians… and a far cry from the first time I saw him play. In February of 2013 he graced the stage at the Worker’s Club, Fitzroy, under the moniker “Dan Murphy and his Bottles of Confidence”. The bottles were Nick Allbrook and Cam Avery. Bibby laughed that night when the crowd begged for more after he had already encored with the oft-heard favourite, “Material”.
“Play another one!” Someone screamed.
“Nah.” Said Peter.
“Why not?!” They queried.
“Because this is like, our second gig...”
Nowadays if you requested another song from him, Peter would probably give you 3. My guess is that he would have 20 or so more up his sleeve. Such is the variety of his music. Thankfully, he still mixes the old with the new. Of the 12 songs played that night at the Workers Club, 4 have made it on to this record [River Guts, Home Alone, Friends and Cunt]. Some are songs that Bibby has had in his inventory since he was busking at 19 (he did this while plotting his great escape from a 6-year stint doing solid plastering, also performing in Fucking Teeth, Frozen Ocean, The Bible Bashers and Blokes In Coats). If he isn’t one of Perth’s most exciting upcoming performers then he is at least Midland’s best ever busker.
In November 2014, Peter Bibby’s “Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician” hit record store shelves. It sits amongst Spinning Top’s fast-growing catalogue of music out of Perth. The label doesn’t guarantee success for its musicians; the musicians guarantee success for the label. Peter is one of these guarantors.
That week, I found the CD as soon as I could. In March this year Bibby announced that Vinyl copies would be available soon. There are rules my life follows; along with “thou shalt not re-watch old seasons of Survivor in the weeks surrounding uni exams” sits “thou shalt not purchase NEW records online” in bold writing. I broke this commandment to buy Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician. The record arrived on my doorstep today and now here I sit, popping bubblewrap, with the needle meandering towards track 1 – Goodbye Johnny.