As the title of the album suggests, Pratfalls and Curtain Calls is autobiographical in nature, an artist reflecting on the world around him in all it’s honest and gritty glory, its intimacy and loneliness, its ultimate highs, its desolate lows, love, loss, life and everything in between. But then the stage as a soapbox and the recorded medium as mass communication provide the ideal way of presenting your take on the world around you. Quite frankly anyone not taking such an opportunity to add something thoughtful to the collective discussion is really missing an opportunity. Not here though.
Thankfully Bob Pepek’s most recent album is full of wonderful narratives which are both intimate in nature and universal in appeal, the ideas may come from personal experience but to be honest, we have all been there, we can all relate. It might be argued that the slickness of production such as found here can sometimes blunt the central message, that a stripped down and grittier approach is often a more effective medium. I would argue that we have probably had enough earnest indie-kids in wide brimmed hats sporting their first beard, telling us how the world really is and the lushness and rich textural qualities found here actually reinforce the message.
It’s a tidy mix of pop-R&B and acoustic led rock; it is melodic, wide-screen, exquisitely arranged and tasteless to a fault. It also covers a lot of ground musically. Take Me For Me is a slow building ballad which walks us from simple economy to anthemic crescendo with an acoustic take on the song included for those on a musical diet whilst Ship Me Away is heartland rock destined for a bigger stage. Between these parameters Bob weaves deft lyrics through addictive melody, blends the simple and direct with the detailed and the wonderfully embellished and walks a fine line between restraint and extravagance. But the song is always what is on show here and no matter how grand he gets with weaves of dexterous flamenco or washes of orchestral strings it never overpowers the song itself, something other artists should take note of.
Mainstream music doesn’t have to be a dull and predictable affair, Pratfalls and Curtain Calls certainly plays to a mainstream audience but one less concerned with fickle fashion and flavours of the month and offers, not only a collection of great and well crafted songs but a lesson in how to dress, enhance and present them to the public. The middle ground has never sounded so cutting edge!