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Spinning the Personal through the Universal and Vast – Peter Matthew Bauer’s “Liberation!”

Peter Matthew Bauer
Liberation!
Mexican Summer

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Though tempting to attribute the album title of Peter Matthew Bauer’s debut solo record to the quasi-dissolution of the musician’s home band the Walkmen (for whom he handled bass and organ duties over seven albums and who are reported to be on “extreme hiatus”), the truth is far more expansive, encompassing an entire life and reaching past even that to the edges of existence itself.

Spinning the personal through the vast and universal, Bauer essays the autobiographical (opener “I Was Born in an Ashram,” a bash-about true-life vignette with a tabla-like banged acoustic and a warm Nikki Sudden-esque unpretentiousness) with the scathing observational (the thunder-tinged “Latin American Ficciones,” that same caustic edge of dissolute vulnerability) and multiple field trips through the trippy – and tricky – contours of a consciousness shaped by cultish beliefs doing battle with both traditional religious backlash and apostasy (the classic emotive pop of “Shiva the Destroyer,” not heard with this much soul since The Girls’ debut, and the gritty, arm-spreading grandeur of “You Are The Chapel”). Arriving, not surprisingly, at a refuge between, the songs on Liberation! are buoyed by a kind of atheistic spiritual fulfillment, the title track racing with exactly the level of untethered exuberance that outstrips the euphoria of those whose notions of posthumous salvation its title gently mocks.

That rare thing, a record that squares its epistemological ambitions with its visceral impulse to rock, Liberation! is as timeless a record as we’re going to get this year, and it’s author living rocking proof that the break-up of a major band may well free up a fresh opportunity to rejoice.

[check out “I Was Born in an Ashram” below and buy the album here]