Šimon Peták: Homo Habitus

10 September 2018, 6:00

Šimon Peták: Homo Habitus

“I play contemporary folk, without other adjectives – raging and gentle, with and without humour,” says singer-songwriter Šimon Peták of himself. He was born at the very beginning of the nineties, “a year after the old times ended” as he puts it. He comes from South Bohemia, but grew up by the Berounka, lived a short time in Prague, which apparently turned sour for him, and finally settled in Brno. “I became a dramaturge here, trained as a chimney sweep,” he continues in his verse biography, which you can find in his profile on the server Bandzone.cz. It is there that you can also not just listen to but also legally download for free Šimon’s songs from the album Homo Habitus.

Even if Peták refers to “blues, rock and punk influences”, which in his songs “unify the tradition of Czech song-writing” I can also sense the distant influence of Karel Kryl in his lyrics and his manner of interpretation. I may be mistaken but the “Kryl revolution”, which in Czech popular music followed some ten years after the “Semafor revolution”, has left even today unconscious remnants in many artists. In Peták’s songs I perceive as owing something to Kryl how he works with tempos as well as the way he links wordplay with serious themes. In the refinement of rhymes, perfection of verse or the concision of his expression he is of course not a second Kryl, but we should excuse Šimon given his age. However on the other hand Kryl wrote some of his masterpieces while still very young …

But we should not compare them, especially since between Kryl and Peták we have several generations of songwriters, from which the young Brno writer is following on – from Nohavica and Plíhal via Xindl X perhaps to Pokáč. He is linked with the last two of them among other things by the cadence of the words, sometimes on the borders of comprehensibility. At the same time, if we have the chance to play a song repeatedly or follow it really carefully, Šimon’s lyrics have structure. Essentially he says what he wants to say, even if his layering of themes in places is reminiscent of the surrealist method of automatic writing. Perhaps it is in this – alongside a lacklustre voice that in places is lost in the guitar accompaniment – that the biggest problem with the album lies. While sometimes the author manages to write a song with a single clear theme (the original Protestsong kocoura domácího (Protest Song of a Domestic Cat) with the unexpected introduction “They want my testicles …”), in others he tries to fit into a few minutes too many topics, leading the listener to ask: What is this really about? And at the same time in songs like Boty (Shoes), Na procházce (On a Walk) or in what is probably my favourite, Čiribu čiribá, we can find plenty of great ideas and a distinct message.

In the end I do not see the fact that in some places Šimon Peták does not manage to convey exactly what he wants to express as a fatal error. These songs are truly … if not great, then at least very promising. Work with dynamics, the incorporation of recitatives and elements of poetry in song form, false endings in the midst of songs and light nuances in the pleasant guitar accompaniment (see the acoustic rock in Čiribu čiribá) – these are all meaningful approaches, thanks to which Peták’s work is not run-of-the-mill. Also praise-worthy is the range of issues - from the menntioned humour of the cat protesting against castration to a dialogue with God or a song in which in the environment somewhere between Medjugorje and Mostar (two Bosnian towns known from completely different contexts) we find Mažňák with Losna (a character from a famous old series of Czech comic books for kids) and also Allah having a coffee with a Jew.

In his erudition and sometimes unexpected choice of certain words Šimon Peták in the end – despite the regular verses in his songs – occasionally also reminds us of Merta. However he does not copy any of those I have mentioned in this article. He takes from the Czech song-writing tradition what he sees as important and what works. Despite certain minor shortcomings he manages it. If you like solo singers with a guitar, try giving it a listen.

Šimon Peták – Homo Habitus, released at his own expense, 13 pieces; total length 41:25

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