Don't call it a sequel, but Christopher Peifer has followed his excellent debut solo album Suicide Mission with a quite similar and equally strong effort titled The Social Distance. Peifer (The Kowalskis, SiR, Frances Farmer My Hero, Blockhouses, etc.) is quickly establishing himself as a solo artist of note after decades in the New York rock and roll scene. While Suicide Mission was described as "art and love in the time of Coronavirus", The Social Distance is Peifer's definitive "COVID record". It was written and recorded entirely during pandemic times and reflects what was going through his mind as he and the rest of the world battled through a year unlike any other in our lifetimes.
Written in Fort Wayne, Indiana and recorded at Todd Giudice's Roots Cellar Studio in Cold Spring, New York, The Social Distance is an album that deals with loss, change, and upheaval on both a personal and political level. Yet it's also full of optimism, hope, and a highly contagious positive energy. Musically, Peifer continues to work in the medium of two-to-three minute pop-rock songs. Most of these ten tracks meet at the intersection of timeless power pop and 1980s indie rock. Peifer excels at writing songs with simple, appealing hooks. Yet beneath the surface, these songs are heartfelt, relatable, and quite profound. Here Peifer largely responds to the trials and tribulations of a pandemic year by looking forward to better times ahead. The title track is full of hope for reuniting with loved ones in person, while the Replacements inspired rocker "Meet Me At the Bar" is just as much about the bonds of friendship as it is about the joys of drinking. Spiritually inspired by Patti Smith's "People Have the Power" and Curtis Mayfield's "Power to the People", "Something To Believe In" is Peifer's humble stab at a rallying cry for positive change. "The Infernal Racket" is kind of like Peifer's own "Left of the Dial" -- a celebration of indie radio stations and the underground rock and roll bands they so steadfastly support. A Paul Westerberg influence looms large again on album closer "Can’t Dance At All" -- a song that encourages the pursuit of joy wherever one may find it. And of course this would not be a Chris Peifer album without a little bit of storytelling. A skilled chronicler of the rock and roll life, Peifer crafts real-life tales that are both heartbreaking ("The Ride") and highly amusing ("Let's Get the Band Back Together").
Like its predecessor, The Social Distance hooked me with well-crafted pop songs, but it has the staying power to keep me coming back for more. A good solo album should make you feel like you know the artist, and that is definitely the case with The Social Distance. On the excellent track "Midnight Radio", Peifer romanticizes long distance driving with music as a sole source of companionship. He has, no doubt, crafted an entire album that will enhance your enjoyment of any solitary pursuit. In a year full of excellent LPs, this is one of the very best.