The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World
IND 123 CD/LP/MP3
Peter Jefferies’s extraordinary debut solo album, The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World, first saw life as a cassette via the Xpressway label of Port Chalmers, New Zealand, in 1990. As a result of some international underground acclaim in fanzines and mailorder catalogs – for both the album and a striking 7-inch, “The Fate of the Human Carbine,” released around the same time – it soon appeared on LP and CD as well, through the Ajax label of Chicago. Within a handful of years it slipped out of print and out of sight. Roughly 20 years later that situation is being amended by De Stijl with a vinyl reissue that includes the songs from the attendant single and no amount of remastering whatsoever.
Though no one’s gotten around to writing a book on it yet, The Last Great Challenge in a Dull World nonetheless stands as one of the singular singer-songwriter albums of all time, existing on a sparsely populated plane with Pink Moon, I Often Dream of Trains, Blues Run the Game, Our Mother the Mountain and not many others. In a sandy voice that soothes and slashes, Jefferies offers a compassionate, piercingly lucid view of the endeavor of life, all our pain and small glories rendered in tones both harrowing and tender. On piano, drums and percussion, he pounds out melodies that roar, sweep and lilt, accompanied on many songs by the serrated guitars of a variety of players. Featuring a small team of South Island heavy-hitters – all three members of the Dead C as well as David Mitchell (3Ds), Alastair Galbraith, Kathy Bull (Look Blue Go Purple, Cyclops), Nigel Taylor and Robbie Muir (who’s cobilled on the single) – Last Great Challenge provides a pivot point in Jefferies’s formidable recording career, which included two bands he shared with his brother Graeme in the ’80s, Nocturnal Projections and This Kind of Punishment, and four further solo albums, as well as stints in bands here (Mecca Normal, Two Foot Flame) and there (Plagal Grind, Cyclops, and collaborations with Shayne Carter, Jono Lonie and Chris Smith).
This immediate and affecting album has been a comfort and a guide for me since it came out. Sit a spell and see if it doesn’t speak to you as well.
~ Mike Wolf, NYC, 2013