Impossible Vinyl — Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician by Peter Bibby
Some part of me is glad that this album hadn’t been released the second time I drove across the Nullarbor, because I would have rinsed it, therefore spoiling it for myself. Instead I listened to the Spinner’s song ‘I’m Coming Home’ about 17 times a day and spoiled that instead.
And I’m gonna sleep on a bench tonight
My only companion is my pillow, which is also my drink
I lived in Perth some years ago. I drove over there with my partner at the time to take a job in the Margaret River managing a cellar door for a boutique winery. After about a year I’d lost 15kgs, I was single, I was completely broke, and I was driving back to Sydney across the Nullarbor with my old man. The year after, I was managing a bottle shop in Leichhardt when one of my coworkers suggested I give Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician by Peter Bibby a go. After some initial reluctance, I had a listen and it’s been one of my favourite albums ever since.
Bibby’s music is in that very Australian genre of Dolewave. On his later albums his new band The Dog Act have a bit more of a presence, but on Butcher/Hairstylist/Beautician the backing band let his raw voice and honest, uninhibited lyrics shine. He has obviously taken a lot of inspiration from The Pogues and their frontman, Shane MacGowan, something that is alluded to in the track ‘Friends.’ You can hear on every track as he sings about being unemployed, about being so stoned he’s paranoid, and being homeless on the streets of Perth.
One of the reasons for my reluctance to listen to the album initially, especially in a suburban bottleshop, is the song ‘Cunt.’ The truth is that the song is one of the best love songs I’ve ever heard. The title is self-deprecating and the outlook bleak, written by someone living on the streets while Western Australia was experiencing unprecedented levels of wealth thanks to the mining boom. Despite being left behind, Bibby finishes the chorus singing “In the morning, I’ll go bum me a buck or two / So I can get on a bus and come for a ciggy with you.” It’s so deeply poetic and philosophical; if nothing truly matters as the nihilists say, then I may as well come and spend my time with you. It’s much less polished, but such a platitude is worth a million recycled aphorisms from standard love songs.
I think the thing that sticks with me the most about this album is that Bibby was suffering in Perth at the same time that I was. He sings about being a local at the Midland train station, and I was living on the same rail line in Mount Lawley. I wasn’t homeless thankfully, but my cowboy of a boss just stopped paying my wages and most days I couldn’t afford to eat. Naively I thought I could grit my teeth and gut it out, and that obviously didn’t work. This album is a balm. When I listen to it in the midst of this late capitalist crisis that sees me paying off a boomer’s mortgage for the privilege of living in a tiny shithole and once again struggling to put food on the table, I’m reminded to take some solace in the people I love and that love me.
I will add that this isn’t an impossible vinyl; there’s a second-hand copy up for sale on Discogs for $200. For all the above reasons, that makes it pretty much impossible right now for argument’s sake.