The genre descriptor “Singer/Songwriter” usually functions as something of a backhanded compliment. Whilst it implies the music is eminently listenable, it also suggests it isn’t gritty enough to be rock or folk music, nor catchy enough to be pop. It’s a term for the music that exists in an uncomfortable middle ground, and it’s one that Bob Evans defiantly leans into on Car Boot Sale.
The standout track of the album, and the one most indicative of its ethos, is the folksily-titled Ron Sexsmith. Over gentle acoustic picking, Evans wistfully sings (in a melody that almost recalls Sufjan Stevens) about a young man who he meets backstage, and finds little in common with. In the chorus he sings “I am bored of trying to cater to some pseudo-hipster’s wavelength”, which is both tellingly bitter, and quite funny. Instead of trying to appeal to a broader audience, Evans follows the old musical adage, and just does what he wants, and is best at.
Whilst some of the tracks on the album follow this idea to a satisfying place (Old News and Some People are both particularly strong), but sometimes his self-imposed lack of restraint leads to overblown and sentimental tracks. The opening track Don’t Give Up On Yourself sees him singing of how he’s always going to be there for someone, and whilst his message is sweet, over the piano chord-based instrumental it sounds incredibly cheesy.
In addition, whilst Evans’ detail-oriented lyrical style leads to some wonderfully John Grant-esque moments like the aforementioned gem from Ron Sexsmith, it also leads to lines like “I carry weightless feelings like an empty paper cup”, which is almost laughable. With this, the conundrum of Evans’ approach on Car Boot Sale becomes apparent. He deliberately embraces the tropes and stylings of his maligned genre unapologetically, and whilst it leads to some phenomenal moments, it also leads to some awkward ones.