Welsh for 'Good Night Comrade', Bruntnell's 10th album is by turns playful, poignant and political, not to mention being one of his most immediate and accessible. It springs to life on jangling guitars with the tumbling chords of 'Mr.Sunshine', a pointed attack on Donald Trump, not as regards his current blunderbuss electioneering, but in reference to his determination to sweep away a Scottish fishing community so as to build a golf course in Aberdeenshire, but, by extension, also a comment on the decline of the industry.
A quieter, more reflective mood informs the strummed breathily sung 'End of the World' about the way living in the virtual world of the Internet has, for many, taken over from having a life in the real one, and, of course, everything that's missed and lost as a result.
It's back to a driving drum beat, cascading chords and guitar chimes with 'Rainstars', a number he describes as the persecution complex of an unlucky man who feels he's being "toyed with by mad gods like a character from some Greek myth." It's been likened to Big Star, but I hear more of 70s power pop outfits The Paul Collins Beat and Shoes here.
After the instant bite-size buzz of these, he stretches out the mood and playing time for 'Yuri Gagarin', a near nine-minute excursion into Crazy Horse psychedelic territory that unfolds a young boys dreams of emulating the first man in space, the initial mid-tempo beat exploding into guitar and keyboard storms midway in.
The optimism of a life ahead present there is juxtaposed on the hushed, slow brushed 'Dance Of The Dead', a spooked atmosphere underpinned by brooding bass and fairground-like piano notes, anchoring a lyric about the great escape into the world beyond as it turns to a resonant guitar led funeral march.
If that's something of a miasma, 'Where The Snakes Hang Out' is firmly focused on a steady chugging swampy riff (almost Deep Purple at times), Bruntnell's smoky vocals prowling around a shadowy underworld in which you check your idealism at the door, the chorus soaring on falsetto notes. Then, after a spate of lengthy and complex numbers, punchy guitar ringing brevity kick in again for 'Fishing The Flood Plain', a track inspired by evacuations caused by the flooding of the Somerset Levels, followed on by the guitar chugs and flourishes that drive the power pop burr of letter home from the road 'Peak Operational Condition'. Absence also lies at the heart of the nostalgia-soaked 'Long Way From Home' with its rain-like static and backwards tape effect that prelude the main thrust of a song that, at times, reminds me, both musically and thematically, of 'Goin' Back', the Goffin/King classic formerly recorded by one of Bruntnell's mainstay influences, The Byrds.
The title track ultimately arrives on another glorious tumbling waterfall of chiming guitar notes, a reflection of that feeling you get when you wonder if it was your fault that a relationship fell apart, before finally closing the shutters on the simple picked acoustic and piano of 'Caroline', a wistful song (surely tipping the hat to both Brian Wilson's 'Caroline, No' and Colin Blunstone's 'Caroline Goodbye') about two people who grew apart, "counting down the days to goodbye", while waiting for the right time to grow together.
A mix of emotional highs and lows with the melodies to match, this one cloud you really should get your head into.
|Plu: Tir A Golau||Paul Handyside: Tide, Timber & Grain|
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