Peter Stuart starts off his debut solo album with a cheerful bang. On “Take me Back” he is at once catchy and nostalgic, like a movie about high school. If he were a character in said teen flick, he’d be the sweet sidekick guy that has a big crush on the pretty girl, but everyone knows she won’t end up with him (because he’s not as hot as the main dude — think Duckie in “Pretty in Pink,” even though Andrew McCarthy was never hot). Consequently, the character’s lasting impression is a wistful, dopey-eyed expression, unnoticed by the rest of the kids at the prom. Or maybe he’s the sidekick to that guy. On “Propeller,” he plays sidekick to the omnipresence of Adam Duritz.
No surprise, then, that Stuart started out singing backup on Counting Crows’ early tours. He bused the ballad pop circuit, supporting Train, Paula Cole and Live on tours in the mid-90s. After drawing attention from the record big wigs, he formed Dog’s Eye View. Perhaps you recall their single “Everything Falls Apart” from radio top 10 lists in 1995. If you paid close attention to the music (instead of paying attention to Jennifer Love Hewitt’s breasts) in the film “Can’t Hardly Wait,” you would have heard their song “Umbrella,” Ethan Embry’s romantic theme, which features a standout hook.
Stuart disbanded Dog’s Eye View by the end of the decade, compelled to go solo so that his music could reach the widest audience. As evidenced in this solo project, however, “going it alone” means imitating his mentors all at once. He works a gravelly Duritz-esque whine on “Innocence” and “Roll Me Over,” waxing melodramatic like it’s his job. Throughout the 11 tracks he wavers between the Counting Crows and Toad the Wet Sprocket. The result is a cold casserole of sad bastard sweater music and banal folk-pop. Stuart doesn’t channel enough of either to heat “Propeller” up.