With a few hard-to-find releases under his belt, Pointless Nostalgic marks the more widespread debut of piano-pounding British crooner Jamie Cullum. Barely in his twenties, Cullum has a wise old rasp that usually takes decades of chain-smoking to acquire. Cullum's move to mix jazz standards, American songbook classics, and contemporary popular music was a risky one that could easily isolate fans of each genre. However, Cullum managed to find a unifying thread in all of the styles, tying them together in a manner that seemed like the natural culmination of a diverse record collection. Jazz plays heaviest in the mix, but Cullum's version of it is lively and roguish. A rock & roll spirit among erstwhile snobs, he brings blue jeans to the beret set. The only real downfall of the album is that the music is often outmatched by Cullum's pipes to the point of distraction. The blaring horns are too often off-key and grating, detracting from an otherwise well-performed album. Highlights come courtesy of Cullum's diverse and well-chosen array of cover songs. While so many Harry Connick, Jr. wannabes stick to the standards and limply mimic moves lifted from Frank Sinatra's catalog, Cullum hops from Radiohead to Thelonious Monk with equal verve and accomplishment. Closing number "I Want to Be a Popstar" is a playful rumination on the advantages of being a pop star rather than a jazz key pounder. The mischievous romp exemplifies the lighthearted approach that has become Cullum's calling card, endearing him to jazzophiles and screaming young girls alike. Cullum's popularity subsequently skyrocketed with 2004's Twentysomething, which exhibited a fuller grasp of his vocal strength and featured a strong backing band to match. On that album, his increasingly scratchy croon wrings every sultry note out of Jeff Buckley's "Lover, You Should Have Come Over," and he puts a sly dance club spin on "I Could Have Danced All Night." Even with the expert selection of covers, however, it's his own cheeky nod to the restlessness of youth, "Twentysomething," that steals the show.
AllMusic Review by Karen E. Graves