Pete Price’s Department of the Interior is a solo release from the longtime guitarist of The Fries. Price has played with the band over three decades and fuels their music with inspired guitar playing that embraces the melodic rather than empty showboating. The same principles drive Department of the Interior. Songcraft is always first on Price’s artistic agenda. He’s written or co-written twelve songs for this album that are impervious to vagaries of fashion. They endure and rise above the flavor of the moment. This sort of durable artistry is often missing from today’s release as they are, like so many of their predecessors, tethered to their time. Pete Price’s Department of the Interior, however, features songs that for all time.
Many of the songs focus their attention on characters, heartbreak, and interiority. There is a generous helping of performed poetry as well. “Diamonds in the Sky”, the album’s first single, is an excellent serving of the latter. Marrying his forceful and undeniable guitar with strong lyrical imagery and a convincing vocal performance that sinks in fast. He has a signature style on the six-string that borrows from many, but nevertheless sings from the heart. “Common Ground” goes in for social commentary without ever sounding hateful or high-handed. There is no missionary zeal. Building the song and its message around an acoustic musical setting further tempers his observations without ever diluting them.
“Old Movies and You” is desolate, yet unexpectedly hopeful. The fact the song exists at all is a life-affirming move, but Price carries listeners through a wasteland of broken hearts and regrets. He never flinches. The specific detail and everyday imagery running through the lyrics imbues the track with the ring of truth rather than wallowing in tired breakup track tropes we have heard innumerable times. Vocal harmonies at critical points and restless yet compelling percussion are among the strong suits of “Foolish Heart”. His clear affinity for relationship songs may seem tired and played out to some listeners, but Price consistently finds a way to get under your skin and move listeners.
It continues with the track “Let It Go”. It is rousing and anthemic, constructed in an outstanding way that will convince even the hardest of naysayers to concede Price’s talent. He never oversteps his purview and returning to the fiery guitar we heard in the album opener is an astute move late on the release. The album likewise includes two powerful tracks Price co-wrote with talented NYC songwriter James Mills. The best of the two, “Before I Go”, is an excellent musical and thematic fit with its predecessor and features several sharp and natural rhymes. It has the effortlessness all songwriters and musicians aspire to,The album shines from first song to last. Some tracks are especially standout, of course, but Department of the Interior has a level of completeness Pete Price can hang his hat on for the rest of his career and life. Few will finish this album feeling anything less than fulfilled.