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Peter Bruntnell | Ends of the Earth (Loose)
Bruntnell's fourth album follows on from where the highly regarded 'Normal for Bridgwater' left off, essentially furrowing the same Americana field whilst dropping clues as to his heritage. The resultant record fails to engage beyond a superficial appeal, due to the note-perfect but perfunctory production and performances throughout. Bruntnell is a master of the understated vocal, but his world-weary tones emit little in the way of emotion and his lyrics are functional at best. His knack is for melody and a good hook, exemplified by the album's standout, City Star, which boasts a deft chorus and the record's finest vocal. On the rare occasion when there's an opportunity to rock out, such as on 'live favourite' (it says here) Tabloid Reporter which, as can be said about much of both this and 'NFB', the band hit the 'heights' of none more than Del Amitri or a reformed Eagles. It's all excruciatingly SAFE, no matter how much the press release tries to convince us of its credentials as "incendiary", "monumental" or "deceptively sharp". The plaudits thrust upon young guitar-whiz James Walbourne (often seen fleshing out live UK performances by Joe Pernice) are more deserved but his playing suffers a similar fate as the rest here, and betrays his 'session musician' status. An unquestionably accomplished record then, but one where proficiency wins over passion.

Matt Dornan
March-April 2003