Australian singer-songwriter Peter Milton Walsh started The Apartments in the late ’70s, and our interview begins with a snippet of the opening track from, “Help” from his 1979 Return of the Hypnotist EP. He also around this time played with the Go Betweens and other groups, and released The Apartments’ first LP, The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years, in 1985, a heart-wrenching affair which made it onto the New Music Express “albums of the year” list. This led to some singles, one of which–“The Shyest Time“–made it onto the soundtrack of the 1987 John Hughes film Some Kind of Wonderful.
The band had all the moody jangling of early REM, the Smiths, and The Psychedelic Furs, with a unique front man, strong melodies, and the mood of the moment? So why (presumably) have you not heard of this group? Their 1993 album drift (the first full album since their debut) was apparently a big hit in France, but none of their work sold particularly well in the English-speaking world. As Peter reveals on this episode of Nakedly Examined Music, he didn’t much like high-pressure studio recording, resulting in whole eras of his songwriting left largely undocumented.
Personal tragedy also derailed his career from the late ’90s until the late ’00s when he returned to live performing and eventually released a couple of really devastating albums, including 2015’s No Song, No Spell, No Madrigal and the newly released In and Out of the Light.
On each episode of the Nakedly Examined Music Podcast, host Mark Linsenmayer plays four of an artist’s songs in full and discusses them with the songwriter at length. Here Mark and Peter discuss the structure and recording of two songs off the new album: “What’s Beauty to Do?” and “Where You Used to Be.” They then look back to the middle of The Apartments’ ’90s output with “Sunset Hotel” from Fête Foraine (1996), a song capturing his observations of a group of heroin addicts. Finally you’ll hear “Looking for Another Town” from that 2015 come-back album.
For more Apartments: The first come-back song was really 2011’s “Black Ribbon,” which you can watch him play solo. Perhaps my favorite song he’s done is the doom-epic “What’s Left of Your Nerve” from drift. You can watch a recent live version of “Sunset Hotel” and catch the official video for “What’s Beauty to Do.” More at theapartmentsmusic.com.
Nakedly Examined Music is a podcast hosted by Mark Linsenmayer, who also hosts The Partially Examined Life Philosophy Podcast and Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast. He releases music under the name Mark Lint.