Ken Maiuri’s Clubland: Peyton Pinkerton’s new album, ‘Ex Tomorrow,’ resonates today

  • Left to right: J.J. O’Connell, Peyton Pinkerton, Marc Seedorf. Photo by Anne Pinkerton

Published: 8/1/2019 11:08:23 AM
Modified: 8/1/2019 11:08:11 AM

Peyton Pinkerton’s thoughtful, sparkling guitar work has been an integral part of bands like the Pernice Brothers, Silver Jews, and of course his own celebrated Valley group of 20 years, New Radiant Storm King.

In the decade since that band’s breakup, Pinkerton has hunkered down in his home studio to create cinematic solo records, putting them out into the world every few years. His third and latest is “Ex Tomorrow,” recently released by Darla Records, his longtime label going back to the Storm King days.

Maybe my ears have been colored by a recent deep dive into the archives of MTV’s “120 Minutes” (the network’s midnight showcase for U.S. and U.K. alternative rock), but a number of “Ex Tomorrow” songs could fit right in with an early-’90s playlist of bands like Ride, Sugar, and The Church. “So Low” is roaring, chiming and catchy, and the disorienting rocker “Plans” spins loudly and brightly like a manic ride on the amusement park midway.

The 11 pop/rock songs — finished with help from longtime collaborator/engineer/producer Mark Alan Miller — are expansive and multilayered. Pinkerton’s love of guitar tones and hooks fills the songs to the brim with color and energy, though there’s also definite darkness swirled in. One memorable lyric from the title track is “It’s always a slippery slope/ each day above the ground.”

“Plans” is a chugging tour de force that seemingly includes every possible timbre of alternative rock guitar: overdriven power chords, fuzzy, dizzying tremolo à la The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now?” and a nagging, siren-like hook reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine and the Pixies’ Joey Santiago. The song is danceable, yet the big shout-along lyric at the end is “God laughs when we make plans.”

This fall Pinkerton will play his first live show in a decade, at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on Saturday, October 5, at 8 p.m., opening for the Stone Coyotes. He’ll be backed by the friends who played on “Ex Tomorrow” — dedicated drummer/percussionist/vocalist (and Storm King member) J.J. O’Connell and bassist/vocalist Marc Seedorf.

I met with Pinkerton at his Valley home before the album’s release (chatting on the couch while his cat Levon perched behind me, licking my hair), and caught up with him again earlier this week, after his first full-band rehearsal.

Clubland: “Ex Tomorrow” isn’t a concept album, but are there recurring themes? The press sheet said the record “reflects on the perils we all face living in 2019.”

Pinkerton: I wasn’t trying to impose any one specific theme on the album, but looking back I realize there are more than a few lines about extinction, becoming obsolete and being left behind. I guess the “perils” could be applied to the state of the world currently, and, without getting too political, our collective participation in the destruction of our environment.

The “it’s always a slippery slope line” refers to how fragile everything has become in this day and age and how it’s so easy to be just one step away from watching it all come apart. The title “Ex Tomorrow” was just some wordplay about how yesterday was, at one point, tomorrow — how quickly time passes and how opportunities are lost due to procrastination and denial.

Clubland: “White Rhino” casts a spell and really grabbed me on first listen, with that haunting chorus that begins, “The animals are lying side by side.” I know you have many animal friends in your home (cats Levon, Jasper, Pearl, Desmond and Quincy; dogs Rhys and Trixie). Did the lyric begin by you looking around your living room, or was it inspired by something else?

Pinkerton: “White Rhino” is one of the sadder songs on the record. I wrote the lyrics one morning after reading in the paper that the last Northern White Rhino had died. There was a picture of a man crying and holding the rhino. It turned out that he had been the rhino’s sole caretaker for over 20 years. It broke my heart. Later that day, I went into our living room, and all of our pets were lying together and it made me thankful for what I have.

It also made me think about how a cat and a dog can snuggle together but we humans can’t seem to do anything but kill ourselves and other species. There was also a lot of news about trophy hunting during this time, and I guess that permeated the song to a degree. There’s more than a little disdain for humankind in there if I’m to be honest.

Clubland: How was the first band rehearsal?

Pinkerton: Rehearsal was excellent. It’s such a gift to hear the songs taking shape in a live setting. I haven’t really performed any of my own songs since New Radiant Storm King broke up in 2009. I played with National Carpet, Spouse, and Mark Mulcahy for some shows here and there, but I haven’t stood center stage in front of a microphone in a decade. It’s exhilarating but a little terrifying too.

J.J. has been encouraging me for years to play my solo material. I never really planned on returning to that scenario, but he finally wore me down! After making this last record, I finally felt I had songs that would work live. When Marc joined in, everything fell right into place. They are both such excellent musicians, and I’m remarkably lucky to have them playing with me. They really both pushed me to consider playing out again.

Peyton Pinkerton’s new album, “Ex Tomorrow,” is available now online at peytonpinkerton.com and darla.com.

Ken Maiuri can be reached at clublandcolumn@gazettenet.com.




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