Album: Peter Bruntnell
Ends Of The Earth, Loose
Friday 07 March 2003
Over the past eight years, Peter Bruntnell has been quietly building up a reputation as one of the country's most promising singer-songwriters, while sensibly manoeuvring his music away from the Britpop-tinged sound of early albums such as Cannibal and Camelot in Smithereens, towards the more understated alt.country tones of this album and its predecessor, the acclaimed Normal for Bridgwater.
Normal for Bridgwater helped to establish Bruntnell in the American market which, given his melancholy country rock and weary, weather-beaten drawl, is surely his natural domain, a second home as familiar to him as Kingston upon Thames, where he grew up playing in pubs and hoping to emulate After the Goldrush. Not surprisingly, a keen sense of place underpins his songs, several of them dealing obliquely with the emotional displacement resulting from what might be considered substitute roots. "Like coming from the wrong town/ Is sure to raise a frown/ Co-ordinates let you down", he observes in "Laredo Kent" (whose title may be an inverted pun on Paris, Texas); while "Ends of the Earth" employs long-haul travel as a metaphor for such longings, with lines such as "Wishes nose about out there like airplanes on the ground" evoking the frisson of freedom experienced in slipping between cultures, the open-ended possibilities afforded by peripatetic anonymity. "City Star" and "Downtown", meanwhile, exhibit the ambivalence towards urban values that is country rock's fated position, simultaneously drawn by the good times and bright lights, but repelled by the wastefulness and frigid values.
With the young lead guitarist James Walbourne displaying an impressive picking style reminiscent of the late Clarence White, and Son Volt's Eric Heywood adding a glint of pedal steel guitar to some tracks, there's more than a hint of The Byrds about such songs as the venomous put-down "Tabloid Reporter" and especially the eco-anthem "Rio Tinto", where jangly guitars underscore imagery of leaded clouds, blackened fields and stained riverbeds. Elsewhere, there's a more traditional country cast to "One Drink Away", a classic barfly weepie about being left behind by love ("I've got the heart, but I'm running out of time"), and "Murder in the Afternoon", an oddly dispassionate murder ballad set against a backdrop of lonely, plunking banjo, rain and bird noises, and the distant roll of thunder.
Perhaps the best track, however, is the opener "Here Come the Swells", in which an alienated loner is nettled by the cheeriness of passers-by: "I don't eat now, I don't sleep, I don't need anyone telling me what's fun." A cutting exercise in offhand misanthropy, it's the kind of idiosyncratic song that places Peter Bruntnell alongside David Gray and Tom McRae in the pantheon of new Brit singer-songwriters.
musicReview: Culture Club performs live for first time in 12 years
Children's bookseller wins The Independent's new author search
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo shot dead at war memorial
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
This is what a film sex scene actually looks like on set (mostly awkward)
Taylor Swift, 1989, album review: Pop star shows 'promising signs of maturity'
American Horror Story season 4, Fox - review: Silly, sensational and sensitive
The Apprentice 2014: Nurun Ahmed and Lindsay Booth fired in double elimination
Breaking Bad season 6 hoax: Vince Gilligan has not confirmed a new series
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
London bus driver 'kicks gay couple off for kissing'