Philip Parfitt Is Not The Man He Used To Be

It may have been a heartfelt stroke of honesty, it might have been an effort to inoculate against the facile criticism he expected, but whatever it is that prompted Philip Parfitt to call his first album in 20 years I’m Not The Man I Used To Be, it certainly seems accurate.  For this album is very, very different from what Parfitt has done in his prior lives, his prior bands.

It’s no disgrace if you don’t know who he is. Parfitt’s last album came out before, oh, Oasis hit the scene. The Perfect Disaster may be best remembered now for having given Josephine Wiggs to The Breeders, but to those of us who remember the late 1980s, they gave us an enormous amount of pleasure.  Some of that pleasure, to be sure, was what a great guitarist Dan Cross proved to be, but it was Parfitt’s singing and songwriting that made The Perfect Disaster worthy of being spoken of in the same sentence with the Velvet Underground.  Here’s how we described them in 2009:

“The Perfect Disaster were an interesting, sometimes thrilling late ’80s British band headed by Parfitt, with the glorious Dan Cross on lead guitar, what had to be Mo Tucker’s illegitimate son Jon Mattock on drums and, before she left for The Breeders, Josephine Wiggs on bass and vocals. Their album Up is what got me started, especially “Time To Kill.” They had a chugging, Velvets sound, had spent plenty of time listening to the Buzzcocks and Modern Dance-era Pere Ubu, and Parfitt was a wonderfully sneering front man, limited in vocal range, but of course that made sense, since the model was Lou Reed. Heaven Scent came out in 1990, and to my ears was stronger than Up (though britcrits seem to prefer the former.) It had a little less urgency than its predecessor, but by now Parfitt’s songwriting craft had more facets and dimensions, yet was more contained. Great things seemed in store, and … poof. They disappeared.”

But then came Oedipussy, whose 1994 album Divan we called “the great lost album of post-punk British rock.”  It was more dynamic, more explicitly commercial than The Perfect Disaster, and while their (his?) lone album was incredibly different from what had come earlier, it was no less satisfying.  Two years after we posted our piece on Oedipussy, this comment suddenly appeared:

““thank you ladies and gentlemen. I am well.its very very lovely that people appreciate my work. i’ve not stopped writing or recording since Divan, just haven’t got ruond to releasing much; I am though planning to get a new album out this year 2011. there! I’ve said it! one step follows another step, even when you are walking backwards.”

It was signed, simply, “philip.”  And for three years, these two Tulip Frenzy posts have gotten steady traffic, as the world hasn’t forgotten about Philip Parfitt.

And then two weeks ago, someone tweeted us that Parfitt had a new album out, and sure enough, I’m Not The Man I Used To Be hit the iTunes store.


When you listen to the opener, “Big Sister,” it’s not Lou Reed that comes to mind so much as Nick Drake.  This is a quiet album, handcrafted before the fireplace, as rain hits the window.  It is no less the beautiful for it.  Whether or not Phil Parfitt has changed — and let us simply assume that he was writing in character when, on Up‘s closer, “Time To Kill,” he announced it was “time to pull the trigger and/time to die” — this music is lovely.  And every bit as special as anything he did in his harder rocking past.

The Perfect Disaster has gotten us through many a late evening: car rides, plane rides and the like.  I’m Not The Man I Used To Be is that next album to play on a rainy Saturday after Beck’s Morning Phase is over, you’ve just poured another cup, and the dog is snoring at your feet.  To say this is a quiet album is the finest praise.  We’re glad he’s back.


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