An augmented reissue of an album originally self-released (on CD-R) by Seattle-based popster Matt Bruno, 2000's Punch & Beauty is a delectable slice of guitar-heavy power pop along the lines of the Posies' Frosting on the Beater or Matthew Sweet's meatiest work. Bruno, who played all the instruments save the drums and a couple of guitar parts, is a canny songwriter able to use the tropes of power pop (crunchy, lightly distorted guitars playing memorably hummable riffs, la-la-la backing vocals, upwards modulations on end choruses, that sort of thing) without having them sound like clichés. The vaguely psychedelic "Sooner and Later" (not the Grass Roots song) and the snarky new wave electro-pop "I Wanna Be Beautiful" show that Bruno's got a wider range of stylistic influences than just his Badfinger and Big Star albums, but even on the most typically power-poppy tracks, like the opening "On Top of the World," Bruno throws enough curveballs to make the tracks sound fresh. Most appealingly, Bruno's voice is considerably stronger -- not to mention deeper -- than most of the power pop singers who overuse the Alex Chilton/Chris Bell top-of-the-range vocal gimmick, which allows him a much greater range of shadings. The three additions to this version of Punch & Beauty are "Do You Love Me," a lovely, harmony-heavy Brian Wilson homage (circa Today or Summer Days (And Summer Nights) instead of Pet Sounds and Smile, refreshingly enough), and the Aaron Copland-influenced orchestral shadings of "Lover May I," plus a dispensable alternate mix of the Spector-esque "That Someone."
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
feat: Darren Jones