Ben Harper - Both Sides Of The Gun

Natasha Footman 20/03/2006

Rating: 4/5

Ben Harper and his band, The Criminals, work well together. They perform naturally and in a relaxed way, their music washing over listeners like lazy waves, befitting to Harper's surfer-cool status which includes Jack Johnson as an avid fan. Both Sides of the Gun is a double-disc treasury of summery tunes that even deal with various political issues, promoting optimism and peace. It's an accomplished piece of work, but isn't a blindingly stunning album, preferring to burn slowly which is sometimes enjoyable, sometimes boring.

The album has been split onto two discs with the first being a collection of funky tracks featuring electric guitars and jazzy tunes, while the second handles calmer, acoustic based songs, more familiar to Harper's music style. The double disc trick is perfect for Both Sides of the Gun as the two separate compilations promote different moods and flow better alone than together. For the disc one tracks groove is of the essence, described by Harper as 'raw and loose', opened by the wonderful Better Way, full of promise and hope for both the message and the rest of the album. Unfortunately, while the disk is uplifting and well performed it is lacking of body and what is called gusto. It's a very good try, but the songs all sound similar and dribble into each other, making for an easy but rather boring listening. When dissected and examined on their own, not many songs do not stand out above the opening track, which is disappointing.

The second disk is a wonderful antidote with pure and gentle songs about love and opportunities which never fail to touch that little nerve inside of you, you know, the one that moves you. With beautiful, graceful songs such as Waiting for You and Never Leave Lonely Alone, this side of the album slowly washes along, calming the listener immediately in the way Harper is most loved for.

Both Sides of the Gun is a wonderful listen, but will be found as either pleasurably languid or boringly so. The second disk is full of tracks that would hold their own if parted, but the first disk feels too samey and out of date and is best enjoyed as background music. However, the album is a great listening experience that is bound to be a success.