Benjamin Shaw - I Got the Pox, the Pox is What I Got EP

Tim Miller 23/11/2009

Rating: 3/5

As a singer/songwriter by any other name, Benjamin Shaw's debut is a curious thing. Self styled as 'six and a half songs of noise, nausea and anecdote', it is a prickly release sitting uncomfortably between EP and album.

Fastidiously DIY in sound - especially his flaky voice - Benjamin Shaw weaves homemade tales over equally ramshackle music, not least typified by The Carpeteer, a profession Word 2007 doesn't realise exists. Loosely basing his lyrics around an inscrutable persona with “feet growing legs”, and who, while visiting the market in search of cake, feels it necessary to apologise for both science and fate, at times Shaw's wordsmithery seems to resemble ransom notes that use sentences from forgotten novels, as opposed to headlines from newspapers.

But such conflicting lyrics sit well with the bedroom recordings. 12,000 Sentinels sounds like a folk-shanty sung around a battered bar piano, while Shaw's Blackpool upbringing infuses Chocolate Girl, a pondering acoustic number, with shades of a grimy Bon Iver.

It is Benjamin Shaw's fleshed out songs, however, that work best. The quirky arrangement of opener Thanks For All the Biscuits pitches squeaky electronics over vague flutes and jangly guitars, brought to a head by a layer of slight percussion. Similarly, the best track here is the most upbeat offering, When I Fell Over in the City, its familiar guitar chords also marshalled effectively by a rhythm section of thuds and thigh slaps (?!), the whole piece augmented by duplicated vocals and warm organ layers. Its final line sees Shaw in self-deprecating mode, musing ”There's a fine line between talented and me”.

This isn't quite true, though Shaw's garishly individual songwriting does sail close to the wind at times. Sporadically a difficult listen on the surface, his one-man-bandism requires patient and acute attention, but there's enough appeal in Benjamin Shaw's DIY debut to suggest that he might be a 'name' for 2010, and in the meantime, earn him three of God is in the TV's feted gold stars.