Peter Laughner

Peter Laughner

Smog Veil Records, 2019

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


A driving force in the fertile rock scene of Cleveland in the '70s, Peter Laughner (pronounced lock-ner) has made plenty of important contributions to rock 'n' roll. Most notably, he was an early member of Pere Ubu as well as part of the classic line up of Rocket From The Tombs.

This retrospective has been a decade in the making, and the Smog Veil label does the legacy of Laughner proud with 50+ songs across five discs or LPs, plus a bonus 7” EP and massive booklet here. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Disc one starts with “Hesitation Blues” and indeed brings the blues in a punchy, key-friendly, and upbeat display of bouncy melodies and expressive, sometimes humorous storytelling. “Sidewalks Of New York” follows, recruiting timeless folk qualities alongside gentle guitar strumming.

Laughner often resembles Bob Dylan in his delivery, and even covers Dylan with the quirky, playful “Please Mrs. Henry” and later on reworks “Love Minus Zero (No Limit),” as well as “Pledging My Time,” “It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry,” and “All Along The Watchtower.”

Lou Reed's work is also present, as Laughner interprets “I'm Waiting For The Man” with a playful and rhythmic approach, as well as “That's The Story Of My Life,” “Rock & Roll,” “Heroin,” “White Light/White Heat,” and “What Goes On.”

Of course, there's plenty of Laughner originals to be found here, including the raw, heartbreaking “Sylvia Plath,” the forceful strumming and warbling vocals of “The Next Room Of The Dream,” and the aching harmonicas of “I Must Have Been Out Of My Mind.”

Sadly, Laughner died at the age of 24 in 1977, after being warned by doctors that if he continued to drink it would be fatal. Perhaps he's most known for his tune “It Ain't Fun,” which was famously covered by both The Dead Boys and Guns N' Roses. This mammoth collection of tunes proves that the icon was also an admirer and talented at folk sounds.

It's hard not to ponder what kind of music Laugher would be making today if he were still alive, but seeing as he was clearly ahead of his time in the '70s, there's little doubt it would be iconoclastic yet with universal appeal. At least we've got this box set to document his short but extremely creative life.

Rating: A

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© 2019 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Smog Veil Records, and is used for informational purposes only.