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Pyschedelic curate's egg from Britain's 'best kept secret'
on 17 June 2011
Peter Bruntnell's new album comes replete with a ringing endorsement from Phill Jupitus on the back cover, in which Bruntnell is described as 'one of the best kept secrets of the British live music scene'. This could also be said of his studio work, but although the 'faint echoes of Gram Parsons' that Jupitus alludes to are plentiful in his early material, there is little trace of Peter Bruntnell's English Americana on this, his eighth album release.
Bruntnell's last record, the excellent Peter And The Murder of Crows, came out in 2008, and moved him away from the influence of the alt-country scene, in particular the sound of Son Volt whose style pervaded albums like Normal For Bridgwater (on which the band featured) and the splendid Ends Of The Earth. This time, Black Mountain UFO feels less stylistically sure-footed, Bruntnell's vocals sounding occasionally like an English Josh Rouse, laid back, detached and mellow. It is a curious record, which begins promisingly with 'St Christopher', but then begins to meander through a series of songs that sound worryingly similar. If Joni Mitchell had swung into 'Both Sides Now' following the intro to the bizarrely titled 'Penelope Keith Blues', it would have come as little surprise, so similar is it to the intro of Joni's own song. 'Ghost Dog' has a pleasant guitar-based chug to it, which comes as something of a relief after the inoffensive acoustics that have preceded it, and 'Marianne' is equally pleasant, though none of these songs come alive in the same way that earlier material like 'Here Come The Swells' did so effortlessly.
The closing song, 'Church Of The Quivering Brethren' is an instrumental, that begins with a Byrdsian burst of sixties psychedelia which transmutes itself into something that would not have sounded out of place on one of The Beatles' more experimental tracks, featuring as it does a dreamy lap steel and Indian harmonium. In a way, it is the most interesting thing on the album, which is a piece of work that never quite gets off the ground, or fulfils the Pink Floydian echoes that rumble underneath it. Very much a statement of Englishness from an artist formerly at home in transatlantic clothes, it is not one of Peter Bruntnell's stronger efforts, but does little to detract from Phill Jupitus's recommendation to 'seek him out and spread the word'.