Blockhouses and The Kowalskis, is a underground rock and roll lifer. Over the past quarter century, he's also recorded and performed with Sir, Frances Farmer My Hero, Another Saturday Night, Heavy Creatures, Steve Shiffman & The Land of No, and Giudice's Pig Iron. That's quite a resume! What Chris Peifer had not done until now was to make a record where he was the primary creative force. Suicide Mission is his first-ever solo album, which he recorded at Roots Cellar Studio in Cold Spring, New York with longtime collaborator Todd Giudice. He describes the album as "art and love in the time of Coronavirus". It's an impressive and long overdue solo debut - featuring ten well-crafted pop/rock songs emphasizing storytelling and personal reflections.
Peifer set out to create a debut album full of melodic pop songs in the range of two-to-three minutes. Well that's certainly something I can endorse! Suicide Mission was modeled to some degree after the Elvis Costello compilation album Taking Liberties. The influence of The Replacements, Paul Westerberg, Nick Lowe, Bob Mould, Big Star, and good buds The Figgs is also evident. I like that this is a power pop album at heart, yet it draws from numerous genres and eras of rock and pop music. The longtime sideman Peifer proves to be an appealing singer and exceptional songwriter. Of course he excels at writing catchy pop tunes with hooks. Just as importantly, he has put a great deal of himself into these songs. After listening to Suicide Mission several times, I feel like I have a good sense of who Chris Peifer is. Lyrically, he offers up a nice mix of heartfelt love songs, topical numbers, and autobiographical sketches. The title track likens a life in rock and roll to a suicide mission. This tale of one touring band's misadventures is so wild and bizarre that you know it has to be true! The anthemic "Stanton Drive" finds Peifer deeply nostalgic for his Midwestern childhood. As a fellow '70s kid, I'm really feeling what he's putting out there. "Poughkeepsie" is full of longing for a lost love, and it's executed with a beautiful simplicity. By contrast, "Throw You A Line" is a high-energy rocker that pays tribute to Greta Thunberg and a whole generation of young people who are stepping up to make the world a better place.
It goes without saying that fans of Blockhouses should be very interested in Chris Peifer's solo debut. Suicide Mission is a terrific indie rock/power pop album. It has all the attributes of a mature "singer/songwriter record", but it satisfies on a pure pop level as well. It feels weird to say this about a guy who's been in the rock and roll game for over 25 years, but I feel like we've been introduced to a bright new talent. I'm sure Peifer will continue to play in numerous bands, because that's what he does. But going forward, I look forward to much more from him as a solo artist and/or band leader.