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Peter Bruntnell

Retrospective

Review by Gary Hill

This is a pretty good album made up of some very good songs with a few great ones. The reason that it’s only pretty good is there isn’t enough variety here. Sure, there are more rocking songs and mellower ones. The trouble is, the tempos for the most part are all pretty similar. The vocal deliveries don’t have a lot of range or emotional variety. Add in the fact that the disc probably has too many songs and you have a disc that tends to feel repetitive after a while. The really sad part about that is that most of the songs taken individually are quite good.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
I Want You

The very first burst of sound here makes me think of The Beatles’ “Come Together.” It works out from there, though, in more of a retro sounding classic rock way. I’m reminded quite a bit of something America might do, with perhaps some Steely Dan in the mix, too. That said, the vocals are more in keeping with modern alternative rock. It’s mostly soft rock, but it gets an infusion of harder edged sounds later in the tune.

Bent Out of Shape
As acoustic guitar opens this cut, it seems tied to the 1970s soft rock school of music, much as the opener was. Those alternative rock vibes are still here, too. Overall, though, while this has some modern elements, it’s clearly even closer to that retro sound than the first number was.
Have You Seen That Girl Again
A more energetic and bouncy tune, the alternative rock meets modern pop sounds really dominate this. It still has retro leanings, but this one is definitely more purely modern. I have to say that this tune is marred a bit by some sound-effect that seems like drill or some other kind of machinery. It’s rather annoying to me.
25 Reasons
A slower moving tune, this is another that’s quite modern. I’m reminded of shoegaze music quite a bit. Sure, there are still retro elements here, but overall this is much more purely modern.
Shot from a Spring
The section that opens this feels a bit like Crazy Horse playing one of Neil Young’s more countrified tunes. After the powered up introductory section, though, it drops back to a mellower movement that has plenty of country in the mix. This is a classic sounding tune. Musically it really doesn’t feel that different from some of Young’s music. The vocals and some of the overlayers of sound are a little different, though.
Handful of Stars
Classic rock and modern sounds merge on this melodic, but energized tune. This one is catchy and has hints of shoegaze alongside soft rock elements.
Here Comes the Swells
A country folk element merges with something a bit like Tom Petty here. This isn’t bad, but the formula is starting to wear a bit thin. The tune suffers a bit from that kind of monolithic nature. That’s unfortunate because taken by itself it’s one of the better songs here.
Black Aces
The folk and country elements return here. This isn’t a bad song at all. It definitely suffers from following a song that’s too similar.
City Star
There’s more energy and more rocking sound here and this piece benefits from that change. It doesn’t hurt that’s it’s a well written and well performed tune.
By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix
Intricate acoustic guitar opens things here. This cut is more in line with that folk rock sound. The thing is, this piece is so strong that it manages to evade the “too similar” trap by sheer quality. It’s one of the best songs on the disc.
Little Lorelei
There is more energy and oomph to this cut. It definitely makes me think of the 1970s band Bread. It’s another standout number here. Some of the guitar soloing later calls to mind Pink Floyd a bit and the harmonica is a nice touch, too.
K2
Back into the folk rock vein, this is a decent tune, but it’s just too much like too many other songs here to really standout. It does get some points later, though, when it powers out to a harder rocking jam. Unfortunately, even when that happens it doesn’t stay around long (even thought it returns later), dropping back to the territory that preceded it. That kind of variety for the duration would have made this one better just in the fact that it wouldn’t have gotten caught up in the monolithic nature that pervades a lot of the disc.
Cold Water Swimmer
Although this is a mellower tune, it manages to stand out. There’s a dreamy sort of alternative rock sound merged with psychedelia here. The lush arrangement later really manages to elevate it further, as does the more energized section that follows it. This isn’t a huge standout, but it’s also not mired in the “too much of the same thing” trap.
False Start
Another mellow folkish tune, this definitely suffers from the lack of variety on the disc. By this point it’s really starting to get to be too much of too similar music. The vocal arrangement and hook manage to elevate this a little, but it’s just not enough.
Bruise on the Sky
This is a little better. It’s got some hints of space rock and a more powered up arrangement.             
Ghost Dog
A bit it twisted and tweaked old fashioned music opens this. The song proper is a mid-tempo melodic rocker that works reasonably well. It’s still a little too samey, though. The electrified guitar solo is a nice touch.
Played Out
While in some ways this doesn’t differ much from the mellow folk inspired music heard on much of the album, this manages to stand as one of the best cuts here. It’s got some intricate musical elements to it. There is also a dream-like quality to some of the more lush sections. Additionally, female vocals added to the mix bring variety and magic to it. All these factors make it a great choice for disc closer.
 
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