James Blunt has described Moon Landing as the album he would have recorded if his debut, Back To Bedlam, had not been such a mega-selling success.
JAMES BLUNT: MOON LANDING
Rating: * *
Which is not to say he rejects the two albums he has made subsequently – he is grateful for the opportunity to record unchallenging works in comfy studios, you might say. His fourth album, however, is allegedly unvarnished Blunt, recorded mainly solo with only producer Tom Rothrock to bounce off.
In reality, Moon Landing, titled for its association with nostalgic memories, sounds pretty damn varnished and only a step on from previous albums in that it blandly hitches its wagon to some proven chartbound sounds. New single Bonfire Heart is one of several tracks which fit all too comfortably into the whimsical folk pop territory of Mumford & Sons and their even wetter progeny.
Satellites teams shallow ponderings on human connectivity with tasteful pizzicato strings and a light dusting of banjo, while the cutesy handclaps of Heart To Heart and twee ukulele ditty Postcards evaporate on impact.
Bones also fits well in the current pop market – and I don’t mean that as a compliment – with its banal, woolly sentiments and inoffensive chorus suited to the background hum of daytime radio, while break-up piano ballad Face The Sun attempts to liven up a dull affair by piling on one of those pseudo-soaring Coldplay finishes which signify nothing more than an increase in volume and blank assertion.
Surely any singer/songwriter wants to make music which draws in the listener and demands they pay attention to the story or the poetry of the lyrics? Instead, Blunt simply offers a number of other tracks which sound completely anonymous, even with his trebly Marmite vocals spread on top.
Miss America, inspired by the death of Whitney Houston, at least has a tad more gravitas as it marches towards its quasi-anthemic crescendo. Its typical Blunt chorus hook flies rather close to the classic Elton John ballads of the 1970s, while thankfully avoiding the mawkishness of Candle In The Wind.
Of the remaining piano ballads, Blue On Blue would not sound out of place on an early Rod Stewart album, while Sun On Sunday pulls off the double whammy of being old-fashioned and clichéd. Still, it’s a change from bang up-to-date and brain-rottingly formulaic.