The Pigeons Couldn’t Sleep is a lot more pensive than the first album Peter Himmelman released this year, My Green Kite. He’s twice gotten away with issuing two disparate full-lengths in a twelve-month period, and for good reason. He serves two completely different audiences: adult fans of sharply-written pop-rock, and their equally discerning children.
As one might guess, Himmelman reserves his more sobering sentiments for those old enough to purchase a beer at his shows. A cold wind blows through this disc’s thirteen tracks, but it doesn’t chill to the bone. The title track’s searing bottleneck guitar figures and anxious brooding, and the eloquent acoustic resignation of “The Ship Of Last Hope” (every bit as heavy-hearted as the title suggests), give way to appreciation of the prosaic during the B3-sweetened “Gratitude”, and to carnal desire during the fierce roadhouse blues of “A Dog Can Drink Stagnant Water”. Fittingly, the album ends where it begins — with the sound of pigeons cooing — at the close of the salve-like (if utopian) piano-driven anthem “If We Could Hold Each Other’s Hunger”.
Himmelman’s lean, boyish vocals have drawn comparisons to Elvis Costello ever since the former’s days with early ’80s new wave group Sussman Lawrence, and the resemblance remains. Rock God — the DVD documentary that accompanies Pigeons — provides a self-deprecating comic foil for the album, delivering a punchline with (non-licentious) adult appeal: unrealized dreams trumped by practicality. (Himmelman’s own musical career has never approached Costello’s, but he has landed a string of lucrative gigs scoring major television shows.) Witty, spiritual and devastatingly realistic at turns, both album and film offer the more mature of his two audiences plenty to enjoy, and ponder.