With his Weissenborn guitar, hipster cool and holier-than-thou attitude, the Australian surf bum Xavier Rudd is operating in territory marked out by the likes of Ben Harper and Jack Johnson. Sounding variously like Harper on the cyclical guitar stomp "Fortune Teller", Devendra Banhart on the ode to oneness "Energy Song", and Paul Simon (minus the fretful intellectualism) on "Messages", Rudd is clearly a virtuoso on his various guitars, didgeridoos and hand percussion. But he is fatally hamstrung by his smug assumptions of ethical superiority. It's fine for a track or two - the reggae groove and simple liberal sentiments of "Let Me Be" are appealing - but once he starts offering to "Write you a letter with everything I know/ About the weight of the world/ And the way things could go", one's hackles rise: such a letter might be acceptable from Noam Chomsky, but not from a surf bum with expensive guitars. If you can focus on the music, there are some delightful moments, such as when the strings of Harry Manx's mohan vinha (a sort of sitar-guitar) blend with his didge and Weissenborn on "Pockets of Peace".
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