Experimental Music Love

July 25, 2008

Benjamin Wetherill – Laura

Filed under: Album Reviews — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 6:47 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Benjamin Wetherill – Laura

The obscure artwork? The intriguing title? The delicate finger picking? The soft, whispering voice? The redundantly obvious song titles proclaiming So Dark the Night and How Lonely the Moon? Yep, you’ve got it. It’s yet another white, male singer-songwriter, determined to replicate the immortal brilliance of Nick Drake with just his guitar, and the occasional touch of horns, strings and woodwind, for company.

And how tedious such a vision has become. From Jose Gonzalez’s tiresome mumble, through to every mother’s favourite, Tom Baxter, via every wretched follicle of Newton Faulkner, that troubled troubadour tag has become an ugly, cumbersome device, emasculating its holder of all spark and purpose amongst the more critical music lover.

Of course, as with Nadine Coyle managing to rise above the standard set by the rest of Girls Aloud and actually appear attractive, there are exceptions. But it takes something special to elevate oneself above the wearisome crowd, so obviously out of their depth at anything other than their local’s open mic night. Rufus Wainwright dispels his critics so gracefully with his flamboyant charm, and Conor Oberst is blessed with the lyrical skills of that elegantly pissed off poet laureate.

So where does Wetherill fit in? Well, much to the chagrin of myself, and any attempt at an interesting review I may give, young Benjie appears to fall firmly in the middle, neither excelling nor floundering in any drippy sentiment and stunted imagination. No, Wetherill is finely talented artist, and Laura is a finely apt album to suit his hushed vocals and swift fingers.

For All the Headlines is that typically Drake-like opener of lyrical sweet nothings, complex picking patterns and a veritable forest’s worth of backing singer birds.

This simple formula is an obvious comfort for Wetherill, and much of what follows shows his talent off to similar effect. And though the musicianship may be there, any originality is nowhere to be heard, and most may end up wondering why the album wasn’t just called Laura: Or My Attempt To Make Bryter Layter.

It’s telling that by far the most enjoyable track on offer is the traditional shanty of Shallow Brown. Here, the genuine quality of Wetherill’s voice and arrangement is allowed to timidly shine through, with the calibre of song writing already assured. It does however show up Wetherill’s limitations when it comes to writing that memorable tune.

A decent effort, and leagues ahead of some of his peers. But the truth is, you’ll only make it half-way through a Nick Drake record before you forgot all about Laura.



1 Comment »

  1. Sorry, but what an arrogant statement for YOU to have decided that ‘every white male singer-songwriter is trying to replicate Nick Drake’. There are many, many other very talented guitar playing singer-songwriters for them to have been inspired by. OK so, you may be a HUGE Nick Drake fan, but that’s YOUR personal choice. Some of us may prefer John Martyn, or maybe Jim Croce or even Woody Guthrie – that’s OUR choice. Also your choice of bunching people together really demonstrates, either your lack or knowledge or simply that you haven’t bother to listen. Have you actually seen Jose Gonzalez, Tom Baxter or Newton Faulkner play live – if you had, you may just appreciate that Newton Faulkner is probably the best young acoustic guitarist to hit mainsteam music for very, very many years and I for one am so pleased – slightly irritated oF Reading, but nothing personal. P.S. do you play guitar?

    Comment by Keith P — July 25, 2008 @ 7:20 pm |Reply

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