Who could forget Peter Murphy writhing and undulating like a snake in The Hunger, David Bowie's cult film from the early 1980s? As the "king of goth," the former Bauhaus front man was a gloomy, postpunk messiah who captivated the dark-lipsticked masses with songs like "Bela Lugosi's Dead." Yet the band really showed its glam-meets-electronic roots by delving into terrific covers of Marc Bolan's "Telegram Sam," Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" and Brian Eno's "Third Uncle." While Bauhaus was at times a guilty pleasure, rife as it was with pseudo-poetics and shadowy sexual ambiguity, the band was always anchored by deep, jugular-straining vocals, modulated rock and roll and expressionistic, dramatic flair.
Murphy mostly sidestepped this past when he eased into his solo career. His morose, luxuriant, somehow uplifting music -- epitomized by Deep in 1990 -- gained him a widespread audience when his near-hit "Cuts You Up" landed on American FM charts. But that was 12 years ago. Nothing he's done since has reaped as much attention as did the 1999 reunion tour of Bauhaus, which took him full circle to the fog and angst of his early days.
In the last century, a new record by Murphy would have been met with excitement by goths, postpunks and new wavers everywhere. Now he has to worry about his new album being perceived as a nonevent. Fortunately, instead of reflecting an underground music hero's middle-age crazies or a sober and alienated post-MTV afterlife, Murphy's new album, Dust, explores the delicate line between Eastern (especially Turkish) and Western philosophical and musical sensibilities. The songs nimbly avoid musical craters and preplotted destinations; instead, Murphy aims for a higher realm that offers a temporary respite from modern rock clichés and boring Peter Gabriel Real World records.
Peter Murphy with Michael J. Sheehy
Numbers, 300 Westheimer
Thursday, May 30; 713-526-6551
Years ago Murphy moved to Turkey and developed a deep-felt interest in Rumi and Sufism, and the sounds of his adopted home country echo within Dust's grooves. "I'm showcasing my 'Turkishness' in a very natural and authentic way, but it's not like a world album or world-tourists album," Murphy insists. "It's very alternative, yet we're using very incredible Turkish instruments and players alongside a very Western approach, which is very authentic and completely powerful in its own way."
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Whether you fell in love with the mesmerizing turbulent beats of Bauhaus two decades ago or the savvy songwriting foundation of solo Murphy, the Dust live show should be a treat.