It is surprising that, while plundering the depths of literary history for titles, 28 year old song-smith Rob Sharples failed to heed the sage advice of TS Eliot. The iconic dramatist - whose own Four Quartets provides the Bristol singer-songwriter with a moniker, once famously wrote that "immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different." This debut offering shows ample signs of a gifted musician but its songs labour to do anything other than rehash the toils of another Eliot, albeit with different spelling, the late, great Elliot Smith.

Since Smith died some seven years ago his imprint on modern folk and popular music remains visible in the despairing plight of Bright Eyes and countless others. Sharples' songs do more than imbibe the troubled spirit or rough eccentricities of the Smith songbook, they cling to every detail of this music. The hushed vocals stacked in harmony; the chords that modulate until a songs dying moments; a raw self-production job rich in warmth. The lyrics, too, borrow unashamedly: "a bitter compromise / to keep the dream alive / believing in a calculated lie" would not sit amiss amongst the cynicism and lament of Smith's own musings. This all creates ample space for the musician to demonstrate his impressive command of a legion of instruments (like his master, Sharples recorded the majority of instruments on the album) and his ear for an interesting melodic adventure or two. 'Pirouette' in particular provides a highlight, spinning in succession with its subject matter slowly, brimming with quiet intent. It is all pleasant enough to want to like it but such endeavour is overcome by a more pressing desire to stick Roman Candle on and enjoy the artist first-hand instead of filtered through the trappings of an admirer.

Folk music in this vein hinges on the sort of disarming openness and intimacy that Smith plied so well. Between allusions to so many other "poets", The Paragon of Animals (a title derived from Shakespeare's Hamlet, don't you know) is left lacking a central character, Sharples. Four Quartets will no doubt emerge in subsequent releases as a more assured and individual enterprise, until then there is sadly little to compel in his music; not quite a Wasteland as Eliot might ascribe, but a frustrating affair nonetheless. Photobucket