A FEW people raved to me about Pete Teo's debut solo album Rustic Living for Urbanites, but I wasn't particularly taken with it. It seemed to have a few basic ingredients, but originality wasn't one of them. Indeed, establishing yourself as an earnest voice that deserves to have its stories listened to is the biggest challenge that faces all singer-songwriters.

So has he made any progress on this sophomore effort? Well, yes and no. As far as I'm concerned, there's no doubt that Television is the superior album, but I'm not entirely sure it has the staying power to be either a commercial breakthrough or a critics' favourite.

Things certainly get off to a great start with the pedal steel-flavoured Lost in America (which among other things references William Blake) and it's not as if he loses momentum with Shine (nice piano work), Laura Nelson's Bridge (the melancholy track that ranks as my favourite) and the ensuing barrage of narrative songs.

The problem. is not so much a Tack of quality with any given song, but the absence of variety in terms of timbre, topics and the general vibe.

I should probably also make a note concerning the vocal inflections which may or may not be a dealbreaker for some (I've generally got no problem with them, but I do think they sound a little thin on Carnival Hall).

There's no doubt that Teo has talent and a coherent vision, but this is still not the great album he might one day produce.




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