Punch Brothers are brilliant musicians, but their new album is a little too clever. They have always been ridiculously eclectic: in a memorable concert at London’s Bush Hall three years ago, they switched between bluegrass and acoustic pop – including songs by Radiohead and Dominic Behan – and mandolin virtuoso and singer Chris Thile recently recorded a solo set that included Bach sonatas, so it’s no surprise this album is adventurous. It includes pieces by Debussy and Scriabin, finely played on mandolin, fiddle, banjo and guitar, while 10-and-a-half-minute opener Familiarity is a pained and thoughtful song with constant musical and emotional mood changes and echoes of Beach Boys harmonies. It makes for an intriguing, though at times overcomplex and unfocused, blend. The band sound happiest when they return to their roots on the exuberant bluegrass workout Boll Weevil.
Robin Denselow is a journalist and broadcaster who specialises in music and politics. He is the author of When The Music's Over, a history of political pop