Ben Davis – Aided & Abetted (CD)

Trying to be emotive and filling eir’s songs with earthy tones might work for established bands like Radiohead, but here, the earthiness and ethereal tangents of tracks like “Time A Bind” really just don’t provide a listener with a path of listening, just a take it or leave it attitude. The CD winds on, but nothing here is revolutionary – Ben’s journey along this disc is a trip that already has been taken by innovators, navigated on by copycats, and now can be paid for by those soccer parents if they have the money up front. If you haven’t heard Sean Lennon, Rufus Wainwright, or any of those shoe-gazing bands of the mid-to-late nineties, maybe Ben Davis will provide a bold, surprising “retro” sound that has been directly copped off hundreds of surf, teen-pop, and Beatles records of the 1960’s.

While there is all this hubbub about the album being “the result of 16 musicians and six production gurus from six states working together during four recording and mixing sessions”, the fact is that there are very few moments on this disc where Ben and eir’s motley crew are able to make music that rises above the mediocrity of the cut-out bins of America. What bright moments there are can pretty much be summed up in the very Bowie-esque guitars laid down during “Blue-Hearted Sleeve” and “Underdawg”, tracks that are otherwise without any other redeeming qualities. The dreaminess of tracks like “Crawler” may endear some to Ben’s music, but the tracking of the song is utterly obvious – for individuals, there will be one set ending, without any surprises. Ben’s tracks, for the vast majority of the CD, are like the kiddy rides at a fair – you can see all the small dips and turns, but the ride constantly goes around and around, doing the same thing over and over again.

Production of this disc becomes a major issue when one listens in to “Aided & Abetted”. Where some tracks, most notably the trilogy of aforementioned tracks (“Blue-Hearted Sleeve, Underdawg, Crawler”), are over-produced, sounding less human than computer generated, I can honestly see these tracks going somewhere if Ben would have just let the producers have a lunch break. A raw-ness to the piano, to the guitar lines, to pretty much everything could add to the emotion-filled lyrics of Ben’s, and maybe even give eir the individuality, the sound of “self” that ey just cannot seem to find on this disc.

Rating: 4.1/10

Top Track : In Either Words

Ben Davis – Aided & Abetted / 2003 Lovitt Records / 12 Songs / http://www.lovitt.com/artists/bendavis/ david@hopperpr.com / Reviewed 27 December 2003

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