Peter Stuart

Propeller

Vanguard Records

Two Stars

We don’t need any more Counting Crows or Matchbox Twenty-type bands, but Peter Stuart never got that memo. Instead, with the release of Propeller, he adds another niche in the pegboard of alternative folk rock with girl-done-me-wrong lyrics. That’s great, there’s a lot of redeeming qualities about the Counting Crows, the foremost of which is Adam Duritz’s painfully personal lyrics. Peter Stuart, however, doesn’t shed a bit of insight into the workings of relationships on this eleven track album. In fact, his lyrics are bland to the point of being boring. “I wish I was innocent / there’s blood on my hands”. Wasn’t this same symbolism used by Fuel a few years back? Don’t steal lyrical concepts from Fuel. Ever.

Propeller has almost nothing original to it. Instead of picking up on the soft, acoustic rock of his predecessors and taking it in a new direction, Stuart is stagnant, resulting in an album that is forgotten as soon as it’s over. The only exploration going on here is in the production, where too much effort was put forth. Andrew Williams (Old 97’s) worked on Propeller and would have been more successful had he kept it bare, sticking with the acoustic guitar and occasional piano instead of throwing in a trumpet, 10-piece choir or layers of strings. If Stuart thinks that it’s not painfully obvious, he’s wrong. This type of music, based around simple guitar or piano, should be kept bared-down, otherwise the extraneous elements stick out. To heap layers of unnecessary strings, horns and vocals only detracts from whatever small amount of musical good that Stuart has done.

As if all of this weren’t enough, Stuart finds the need (often) to push his voice into a cringing falsetto. He’s clearly trying to make his songs sorrowful and endearing, but without success. Instead his voice grinds on the listener, who will likely wait for Stuart to drop back into a pleasant range of sound before pulling fingers from ears.

Peter Stuart needs to figure out how to express himself, originally, and then go put that down on a 4-Track. Otherwise, we have enough emotional folk-rock to keep us happy for now.

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