Loved by critics, rock sound magpie Bruntnell writes songs about obscure subjects and Brexit. If Americana and surf had a child, fostered by psychedelic dream-pop, it might sound like this.
Label: Peter Bruntnell Music
Time: 10 tracks/ 50 mins
I sometimes wonder what musicians think, when they are described in terms of other artists. “We are our own people!” they might protest, but it is sometimes essential in describing someone who is relatively unknown.
So what would Peter Bruntnell think of my wife proclaiming that “Dinosaur” is “like the Monkees!” (I’d already thought the same, so it it’s not a random comment)? He might prefer that I am frequently reminded of “King of America”-era Elvis Costello, especially in the title track.
Both are compliments. “Last Train to Clarksville” is a standout single and it’s the opening guitar that is the soundalike here. Bruntnell’s slightly breathy vocal style echoes Costello at his most thoughtful and listenable.
Some of Costello’s caustic approach surfaces in two Brexit-themed songs (and while we’re on soundalikes, coincidentally, these are the two where the jangly guitar has distinct echoes of REM). “National Library” emphasises its point with distant sounds of politicians, but “Thief of Joy” is the one that refuses to pull its punches as it addresses a Bullingdon boy about his self-interest and underhand tactics.
“You had the people’s faith in your hand, talking about the Promised Land,
But the things you said, when you made your stand, were all lies...
You can’t even tell me the truth, but you don’t know why...
The wreckage you leave is still falling out of the sky...
Throw the nation’s dreams away, just don’t lose the crown.
Prophets of hate standing around, misinformation and the drinking it down,
Look in the mirror, how can you say that you tried?”
Bruntnell’s lyrics (aide by co-writer Bill Richie) also take distinctly original topics, such as opener “Broken Wing,” which talks about a young person escaping a cult. “Lucan” (which could be off the Twin Peaks soundtrack) asks whether the eponymous UK Lord, who went missing in 1974, is under the ocean or living in Africa; while in “Dinosaur,” Mark Zuckerburg gets hit by a meteor. Other songs cover nostalgia and the “Widow’s Walk” from where women would watch their husbands sailing out to sea.
If Americana and surf had a child, temporarily fostered by psychedelic dream-pop, it might sound like this. It would be a bookish child, too; not every songwriter uses words like ‘saturnine’. There is plenty of twang in the guitar and six tracks are decorated by pedal steel, mostly by the legendary BJ Cole, but also Iain Sloan.
Especially on the bookending tracks, Peter Noone’s bass is often the riff holding things down, while picked guitar and atmospheric pedal steel (or, very occasionally, keyboards) float around it.
There’s barely a bad track here and if you like Americana, it’s definitely worth investigation.