Peter DiStefano Gratitude

After a long hiatus battling several personal and medical demons, former Porno for Pyros guitarist Peter DiStefano had returned with his first solo record. DiStefano was always far overshadowed by his band-mates in Porno (ex-Jane’s Addiction members Perry Farrell and Stephen Perkins), but on Gratitude it’s finally evident how instrumental to the band’s sound he was. The ghosts of Porno hang around the dark corners of Gratitude and bring an instant sense of familiarity to the record. Except when it confounds listeners as DiStefano tries to reconcile the fact that he’s a guitarist with his pop tendencies. Make no mistake — Gratitude is undeniably a guitarist’s record. Layers of guitars absorb the rest of the arrangements on virtually all of the tracks, making the lyrics utterly incomprehensible most of the time. When he does let his voice step up in the songs, the results are disastrous as DiStefano adopts a faux baritone that’s half spoken and half-assedly sung ("Last Time,” "Alone”). DiStefano is also not immune to Farrell’s perennial habit of re-releasing old material with a new context as he does here with "New Day Clear” (originally released by DiStefano’s project Rambient) nor Farrell’s problem with sequencing; Gratitude seems unbalanced and muddled by a poor track order that has no flow and at times feeling like it was recorded by two different bands. The other side of the coin is that when DiStefano’s on, he’s dead on; songs like "Poisoned,” "My Sweet Tooth” and "Starry Eyes” all manage to strike a balance between guitar heroics and pop songcraft that, when he gets it right, do have a fragile beauty. It’s just unfortunate that the transcendent grace of those songs is surrounded by about three too many underdeveloped feebs. Gratitude could probably have been condensed down to an EP’s worth of good, memorable material. As first releases go Gratitude isn’t poor, but it isn’t DiStefano’s first release either. For a musician with his experience, Gratitude would have been a great indie release, but is by no stretch major label calibre, particularly with "Diminished” misspelled on the back cover. As soon as DiStefano figures out what he wants to say to his audience, he’ll be poised to make a serious impact on the post-alternative landscape; but first he has to go back to the drawing board. (Sanctuary)