Considering he’s only released one single so far, Benjamin Booker has clocked up a good amount of credibility having toured with Courtney Barnett and Jack White, and has also performed at Lollapalooza this year. Yet his self titled debut is what we need to see if he can follow the rapturous hype that followed after single ‘Violent Shivers’. It’s no new affair to begin with, but kicks off the album with a raw rusted vocal, a skilfully mastered riff, and generous thuds of bass that give us an insight into the fun and fast folk up-starters Benjamin Booker can crack out with ease, as demonstrated on this record.
The second track is just as exciting as the first; ‘Always Waiting’ delivers frenzied guitars on fast forward backed by a muffled fuzz that gives Benjamin Booker the earthy in the room sound. ‘Slow Coming’, with it’s harmonious strings, leads a soulful march lightly peppered with taps of bass and the sharp, husky vocal that is now trademark Booker, and it’s barely halfway through the album. The instrumental arrangements are interesting and complex enough to satisfy with sophisticated riffs and a heavy brush of 60’s fuzz, but Bookers voice is the perfect rare spice to the meat that is his music. Take the scuzzy riff that backs the questioning chorus of ‘Have You Seen My Son’ which feels as natural as milk and honey, as it is pure rock at it’s best.
Thankfully you can’t fault ‘Spoon Out My Eyeballs,’ as you’ll be glad to know this song doesn’t want to make do what the title suggests. It’s a toned down Benjamin Booker, starting out in a low hushed whisper before warming up into the faster paced energy of the song, once again bringing in the edgy vocal that cuts through the fast tracked acoustics. We have ‘Old Hearts’, which begins with a patter of cymbals and erupts into a lively tune about, well, old hearts. In ‘Kids Never Growing Older’ we are given a muffled yet melodic hoarse vocal that guides us into a crashing accolade of guitars that embrace the chorus of “kids never growing older’ like an old friend would. And as for the finale, ‘By The Evening’ – as far as closers go you can tell this is the final track of the album. Mournful in it’s beauty, it shimmers like a cracked diamond wedding ring thrown away, and let’s loose at the end with clanging cymbals and chopped guitars.
Yes it’s rather simple. But at the same time it’s brilliantly executed and so well done that you revel with it as it’s simply a brilliant record that’s clearly influenced by Bob Dylan, The Kinks, and The Beatles. Though influences mean nothing when put to such good use, it’s one thing wanting to sound like these artists and another mixing your own palette. This palette in Booker’s case is pretty colourful, as rather than amounting to a dreary sludge of paint we have art. In terms of most modern comparisons he has the soulful broken croon of Charles Bradley mixed with the unpolished scuzz of early Kings of Leon. However, it’s rock and roll on a smaller scale, and this homegrown rock feels more like something you want to keep to yourself, hidden in a hip underground venue where you can treasure it before it gets fired into the arenas and larger crowds of the world. One day my friends this is where Benjamin Booker is destined to be, so watch this space… you read it here first.
Benjamin Booker is out now via Rough Trade Records.