Peter Bruntnell, The Borderline, London

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The Independent Culture

If I'd paid attention to Peter Bruntnell's lovely album Black Mountain U.F.O. when it was released in June it probably would have been the soundtrack to my summer.

It's a collection of wonderfully catchy soft-psychedelic tunes and earworm lyrics, and moves the critically acclaimed Devon-based singer-songwriter further away from the "Americana" tag with which he has been habitually decked – though it's "one of Britain's best songwriters" and "one of Britain's best-kept secrets" that are the ones most usually pinned to him. Both are accurate.

Live at London's gently refurbished Borderline, and after an enjoyably tuneful and energetic set from rising youngster Alex Lipinski, the direct line from Neil Young to Bruntnell is much more evident, especially in the volume and James Walbourne's joyously scything lead guitar lines, as well as in Bruntnell's craggy, stubbly, whiskered face.

The four-piece band kick off with three songs from the new album. "Bruise on the Sky" is ridiculously catchy (yes) Americana with lovely harmonies from the band, Walbourne's unashamedly upfront lead work skittering and soaring out of the mix, while the third, "Drive Away", is a perfect cruising song with an insistent descending riff.

There's something curious musically that elevates each number into a little journey with unexpected melodic turns, but the compellingly crafted lyrics play a huge part too. When, later, Bruntnell gravels, "Have you seen that girl again, the one that makes you ill/ She's just trying to kill... some time" it perfectly nails that frustration of either being in, or watching a friend in, a dysfunctional relationship. The song builds to a cacophonous, angry, instrumental climax that does the same in a gloriously wordless way.

There's an undeniable emotional charge to his rock'n'roll – and a departure from the intended set while Walbourne's capo is retrieved from the dressing room; when it arrives, the band launch into a rousing three-song finale, culminating in "By the Time My Head Gets to Phoenix", inspired by the cryogenic tanks there that store the deep-frozen skulls of rich people who want to live again. If these intended immortals ever do wake up, I hope it's not too late to enjoy their chronicler.

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