From Billy Bob Thornton’s country efforts and the Bruce Willis Blues Band, to Scarlett Johansson’s indulgent interpretation of Tom Waits, it’s safe to say that the chronicle of actors trying their hand at music has perhaps not been met with unwavering enthusiasm. But if you assumed you could tar Australian actor Guy Pearce’s official foray into the world of music with the same brush, you’d be mistaken. On debut album Broken Bones, Pearce demonstrates surprisingly capable song writing, a striking singing voice, and more importantly an impressive and intuitive musicality.
The gradually surging Overflow lays the foundation for the rest of the album: a subdued but expressive navigation of very human experiences. Its constant undulation culminates with a beautiful chorus of voices underpinning Pearce’s own resonant voice. These full harmonies, and elegantly rolling soundscapes, stained by the country and blues traditions, as well as alt rock influences, continue throughout the album. The impossibly smooth bass groove of Storm contrasts effectively with the gravel qualities of Pearce’s voice, before his poignant croon, accompanied by a wonderful string arrangement, utters lines like “a destitute lover was all that I knew” in Golden Heart. His impressive vocal range and quality is fully realised in the album’s title track, whose subdued piano accompaniment further emphasise Pearce’s command.
It isn’t all downy adult-contemporary however. Fronted by Taste, on which Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner features, the middle of Broken Bones offers a swifter pace. The Bowie-influenced track Fly All The Way extends another push – its ascending and descending scalic passages show just how practiced Pearce is, switching effortlessly from chest voice to falsetto. The album also includes some political punch with the socially aware Leader of The Land.
Broken Bones is a negotiation – the contrast between growl and dulcet falsetto, rhythmic punch and affecting languor, and pointed lyrics that are at times poetic and at others painfully realistic. Rather than being unable to reconcile a missing musical intuition with his existing acting career, like many others, Pearce has revealed an adept musical storyteller, which we thought mightn’t translate from screen to record.