Since the day that he spotted a beautiful girl on the subway with another man, James Blunt has been a very common target for abuse, a lot of which has been unnecessary. Still, it’s quite difficult to sympathise with the pen and the voice behind the best selling UK album of the noughties.
‘Bones’ opens with a self-deprecating lament of “I have never been a beautiful boy, never liked the sound of my own voice” – a perfect taunt against all naysayers. Or at least that might have been the case if he had turned over a new leaf. It’s been eight years since ‘You’re Beautiful’ hit the top of the charts and was drilled so deep into our skulls that it’s hard to imagine a time that the ever wasn’t there, but unfortunately, the leaf is as limp, wet and wilted as ever.
Now on his fourth album, Blunt has made little effort to take many steps from the Mothering Sunday gift record model. Clearly gunning to sound adorably fragile, songs such as break-up ballad ‘Face the Sun’ turn a blind eye to the drums. Its minimal nature, as though it is a spontaneous stream of sorrow from a poor James who has just picked up his guitar having just put down the phone after a fateful call, but formulaic so listeners have no trouble feeling his pain. That’s the theory, but the result is a pathetic whimper, rather than raw heartache.
Annoyingly, most energy is saved for the last minute of the final track, ‘Blue on Blue’, as he repeatedly cries, “I’m coming under fire”. The album isn’t so much a 43-minute build up to that moment, but an overly patient wait by Blunt, while his fury charges.
That’s not to say that the album is entirely miserable and repetitive, as Blunt instead picks up a ukelele and takes to the beaches of Hawaii to sing about playground love in ‘Postcards’, albeit rather his lack of it.
Moon Landing is undoubtedly pleasant, but a textbook example of piano-fronted indie-pop lead by a man who we can only wish will settle with a partner, and write about something else.