Tuesday, January 26, 2010

EP Review: Benjamin Shaw-I've Got the Pox, The Pox is What I Got

I kept finding it harder and harder to write the review for this EP, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why, until now of course. In the simplest of words, ignoring all the expected critic-ness that is sometimes contained in these reviews, this is just a great debut that I am utterly happy to have stumbled upon.

The best way to describe this EP is that Benjamin Shaw literally took sections of his life and turned it into this album. Every sound and noise was created only by Shaw himself (which is pretty unbelievably), along with the EP art, and even the horribly scrawled (in a good way) lyric page. Heck, he probably put in the staples to the cover sleeve. But this is all done for a specific reason, that being to teleport you into the mind of Benjamin Shaw.

Like most acoustic-based music, there is a level of sadness and longing in the record. Ok, there is a HUGE level of sadness and longing, but that doesn’t make the EP any less great. It’s sweet, it will make you laugh, it might bring a tear to your eye, and will tap into a magnitude of other emotions that you may or may not have experienced in your life. And it’s not just the lyrics, but the instrumentation that adds to the uniqueness of the EP. No other folk record in recent mind has had this level of fuzz or experimentalism to it that this one has. Take the opening track "Thanks for All the Biscuits" which opens with a sound collage of sorts of people’s voices under a humming sound effect before opening to a sweet sounding guitar and a song about wanting to be with your loved one before diving back into the sound collage for the ending. However, it just gets worse for poor Benjamin from there. He is separated from his love on "12,000 Sentinels" with just a wobbly piano keys to guide his tale. The tale told on "Chocolate Girl" is just deeply sad and few songs transfer the longing of the author as well as this one and the brass that comes in rises it to unbelievable heights. "When I Fell Over the City" is the comic relief song . . . for the listener. For Shaw it’s pretty brutal self-deprecation with the line "there’s a fine line between talented and me" being the song’s course, with a jangly and uplifting guitar and melody to keep it partly hidden. The centerpiece of the EP comes at the very end though with "I’ve Got the Pox, the Pox is What I Got". A 10 minute opus it contains Shaw’s best twisted lyrics about longing and loving yet in the first part before flowing into a sea of static, and emerging later to a new depressing song at the other end. Shaw is so good though, it goes by in a mental 2 minutes.

In this internet age, it’s hard for someone to come out of just about absolutely nowhere and pull something like this off right under the noses of everyone. It balances sadness with humor, bleakness with hope. Shaw may be laughing, but it’s with a mouth of blood, and I think he likes it like that.


No comments:

Post a Comment