Burlington musician Peter Bixby has been an active member of numerous bands over the years, playing bass in the Aerolites, Named by Strangers and Green Mountain Freight, just to name a few. In 2021, he struck out on his own, releasing his debut album, Evolusion Vol. 1, followed in 2022 by Learn to Be Happy. Displaying robust productivity as a songwriter, he keeps to the annual schedule with his latest LP, Seeing Through to Greener Pastures.
After years as a sideman, Bixby has embraced being a songwriter. He describes his latest album as being sent from a “higher power” and centered on “love and the constant betrayal from our ruling class.” While that might seem like an odd combination, the themes feel sadly pertinent in 2023. There’s a lot going on with the songs on Seeing Through to Greener Pastures. At times, too much.
The album opens with “It’s Just That Easy,” Bixby’s foray into experimental, industrial-influenced rock. The record’s raw, DIY production results in the song sounding washed-out rather than anything approaching the sort of brash, strident tones of industrial music. Still, it’s a conversation starter, operating more as a primer for the album than an actual song.
With its Randy Newman-meets-Phish vibe, “Goodbye and Goodnight” is a strange follow-up. In the liner notes to the record, Bixby says many of the songs came to him during moments of self-doubt and “feeling like everything I do is meaningless or worthless while living in a meaningless worthless corporate society!”
At 10-plus minutes, the track gives Bixby a chance to air a laundry list of emotions and advice, from love for his family to admonishing people not to turn to drinking or television when struggling with the demands of a crumbling society. Throw in that rarest of indulgences, the bass guitar solo, and it should be the weirdest song on the album. And yet…
“It’s a Pleasure to Know You” finds Bixby pushing into even stranger territory. There’s always an element of jam lurking on Seeing Through to Greener Pastures; it’s encoded in the music’s DNA. The white-boy funk and less than euphonious tone of Bixby’s vocals don’t do the track much justice, but the song does allow him to show off his bass guitar chops.
There are brighter moments of inspiration as the album moves along. “The Reminder” is a dreamy folk tune that highlights Bixby’s writing strengths. “Gotta Keep Your Heart Open in Hell” shows off a progressive side. And the album’s final track, “Days Roll Bye,” even edges into country rock. That range complements Bixby’s talent but doesn’t do the album’s flow any favors. But at its best, Seeing Through to Greener Pastures is a quirky, introspective record with some interesting turns.
The album is streaming now at peterbixby.bandcamp.com.