Benjamin Shaw - I Got The Pox, The Pox Is What I Got
Benjamin Shaw's first EP is six tracks long. It comes in a brown sleeve with a drawing of a man and a piano. It also comes with the misleading term 'singer-songwriter', which, frankly, is a horribly grey description. After all, Leona Lewis writes songs and sings them. 'I Got The Pox, The Pox Is what I Got' is an entirely different beast, but I don't mean beast as in shaggy/saliva-dripping/googly eyes, I mean a Harpy-like beast - that is to say, it's dangerous but completely seductive.
The EP kicks off with dust-scratching, flutes, just-a-little-too-piercing electronic whines and feedback - and you get the feeling instantly that you know this is what it's all about. This first track is called 'Thanks For All The Biscuits' (of course it is) and is like listening to an inebriated cover on a very, very old amp at the end of a very, very long night. The vocals and mad layers are a signature very much Shaw's own and even through all the twangy lo-fi noise you can tell he really knows what he's doing. Mood can consider itself created - we're only 2 minutes and 35 seconds in.
All the songs are drawn together by Shaw's distinctive voice and his knack for disenchanted storytelling. He sings like a man in the depths of an abstracted dream, knowing he shouldn't care about what's happening around him but also aware that he does. His lyrics are delivered flat so they stick in your soul like a stake - in 'The Carpeteer', a song about a woman, he sings "I'd like to hear my voice / Speak boldly without rhyme / But then I'd like to swing from rooftops / Sober all the while..." then a cheery 'Hi!' just dropped in, right at the end of the track. The cumulative effect is that even though he's be spouting utter nonsense, we know exactly what he means. Favourite track? 'When I Fell Over In The City' - distorted folk instruments, thigh-slapping and an upbeat tempo that provides a release from the oppressive nature of the rest of the album.
The whole of Benjamin Shaw's six track debut EP is completely uncomfortable. Every dissonant note, every disenchanted and broken vocal riff, every mild electronic overlay makes you think, feel, hurt, laugh, shift in your seat. It's almost vampiric in it's delivery, fuzzily beautiful and has a cathartic effect even after three, four, five listens. Benjamin Shaw is a one-man wall in a dark alleyway of sound, and I'll be looking out for him.
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