PETER LAUGHNER: Self titled: 5 x CD

Peter Laughner is twenty-four and he has a six pack of Genny and some smokes, and he talks with his Rust Belt flat vowels and plays songs by himself, and he can’t quite hit all the notes but it’s endearing, and anyway these are just sketches for what he’s going to do next, and however it ends up it’ll be cool, and the next day he’s dead, frozen in a moment just before what should have been the next in a series of moments. What Smog Veil has done with this boxed set is give a fuller picture of who Peter Laughner was in his too-brief life—across five discs, across varying levels of fidelity, across Ohio clubs, radio stations, apartments, late nights, early mornings. If, like me, you knew Laughner primarily as the voice of Rocket From The Tombs’ “Ain’t It Fun,” or as the self-destructive victim of a Lou Reed fantasy in Lester Bangs’ furious, anguished eulogy, “Peter Laughner Is Dead,” this set may come as something of a shock. He is charming and chatty and plays Jimmie Rodgers and Michael Hurley songs. He does full-band and solo Dylan covers that are among the best I’ve heard. His own work—folky, rocky, lyrically expansive—sometimes misses the mark but not for lack of skill (he was an exceptional guitarist), or ambition, and he is achingly sincere throughout, never cool and detached. That sincerity was both his strength and weakness, and may have led, weirdly enough, to his extreme rock’n’roll excess and early end. But like Bangs, I don’t want to turn this into a corny cautionary tale. Yes, there’s the presence of negative space here—the empty rooms and what could’ve been—but what’s important are the roughly hundred songs; yes, he could’ve been something, and we know that because he already was something. –Matt Werts (Smog Veil, smogveil.com)