by: Peter Murphy

2011's Ninth was the leanest and most immediate collection of new material from Peter Murphy to arrive since the late '90s, and Lion, his tenth long-player, while a much different animal (pun intended) sonically, goes for the jugular in a similar fashion. Working with Killing Joke's Martin "Youth" Glover furnishes the 11-eleven track set with a moody and meaty, industrial electro-pop foundation that's as much a throwback to the scene that Murphy helped spawn as it is a nod to modern Darkwave enthusiasts and goth-punk shoegazers like the Horrors, Cold Cave, and Zola Jesus. Lion finds the "Godfather of Goth" at his most unfettered, howling at the moon with the hubris of someone expecting a return call. For the most part, all of the roaring pays off, especially on the album's more propulsive selections like the fat, synth-driven opener (and first single) "Hung Up," the slick radio-ready (if it were 1993) "Eliza," and the decidedly retro "Low Tar Stars," a frantic electro-mule kick of a cut that somehow manages to evoke both Scary Monsters-era Bowie and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. Both songs sound like the work of someone much shorter in the tooth, which may be the result of Murphy spending so much time with his back catalog on his decidedly Bauhaus-heavy Mr. Moonlight Tour the year prior to Lion's release. Even "The Ghost of Shokan Lake," which sounds on paper like a greasepaint-adorned, Christopher Guest-penned goth parody, bristles with the slightly exotic, yet always melodic expansiveness and murky, smoky mysticism that made early albums like Love Hysteria and Deep as satisfying as they were pompous, and while Lion (as a whole) fails to completely engage on that same level, it certainly gives it the old college rock try. ~ James Christopher Monger

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