Coulter: The End of Everything 

Ever wondered what would happen if some musician from the South decided his life's ambition was to play Brit pop? I'm not talking Beatles or Oasis here; I mean Pulp, the Smiths, The The, Morrissey, a dash of Bowie. You know, the good stuff, if you like that kind of thing. Well, Coulter does, and with his disc The End of Everything, he sets out to prove it.

Listening to the disc can become a game of "Guess the Influence," if you're in the right mood. Although his pleasantly mopey voice doesn't sound particularly limey, his arrangements sure do; the first track, "12 Steps in Reverse," sounds like it could have come off Travis' first album, and the fun keeps coming. By the time the disc reaches its midpoint with the lurching, ethereal guitar-licked "Standing at the Station," you'll swear Morrissey dropped by the studio for a guest spot. Now that I look at the art on the back of the CD case, this guy even looks a little like the Prince of Mope. (I'm sure the pose and black-and-white photography are completely accidental.)

This may sound like a negative review, but disabuse yourself of that notion. Coulter brings a muscular sound to his music, and his obvious influences (even to the point of channeling The The, down to the vocal tics, on "Trash" don't get in the way of his brisk, effective songwriting). He may be a total Brithead, but he's also a pop craftsman extraordinaire, and The End of Everything is a scintillating pop gem. Scheduled to release another album this year (if it isn't out by the time this hits the street), Coulter is a pop maestro to watch for, especially if you like your tea at four and your music arch, witty and bracing. Rule Britannia!

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