Matt Bruno

Punch & Beauty

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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 clich├ęs. 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."

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