Island Records – 2001 – 49 minutes

It's one of the few constants of the notoriously fickle music world that a band will emerge every two or three years on a massive wave of hackneyed hype and publicity. The pattern is usually consistent: a devoted live following, a frenzied word of mouth campaign and glowing reviews in the music press.

Although 'Under A Sun' is actually the second release from Wigan five-piece Witness, the similarities are striking. Rave reviews greeted the release of 1999 debut 'Before The Calm', and this latest offering is garnering similar critical acclaim. The question I would like to ask is 'Why?'

The most surprising thing about Witness is that they hail from Lancashire, and not somewhere in Middle America. 'Under A Sun' is choc full of the earnest, impassioned rock which may appeal to fans of Matchbox 20 or Counting Crows, but few others.

Opener 'Here's One For You' sets the keynote without delay and it is a musical framework which is adhered to rigidly. In other words, it's devoid of variety. Each song is so heavily accented in American AOR that it sounds like an afternoon listening to Omaha FM.

The single 'You Are All My Own Invention' is an ode to the 1970s love song structure of fragile verses building up to impassioned chorus crescendos. Each to their own and that, but this is seriously banal stuff.

It doesn't improve. On 'Closing Up' singer Gerard Starkie unwittingly sums up the whole sorry affair when he sings, "This isn't my idea of good company." I couldn't agree more. Fans of MOR will invariably embrace 'Under A Sun' with open arms. For the rest of us, it's just another in a long line of false dawns.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: Here's One For You – You Are All My Own Invention – Dividing Line– Under A Sun – Till The Morning – Closing Up – My Time Alone – Warning Song – Mines – So Here Be Well Again – Avalanche – My Boat – Pushchair