Esser - Braveface
Ash Akhtar 09/05/2009
Ben Esser is 23 years old. And, judging by his debut album, likes Damon Albarn an awful lot. For some reason, the PR that comes with this record harps on about his amazingly unique haircut (quiff) and dress sense (vest). Perhaps someone cleverer than myself can suss that one out.
The 10 tracks of Esser are pretty standard fare given the present musical zeitgeist. Take one musically capable young'un. Give record deal. Allow young'un to fill record with catchy pop grooves and lyrical whimsy. Release.
He's been called the 'male Lily Allen', and it's really not hard to see why. Though there's little wrong with the music per se, it's simply that his limp and insecure delivery of 'insights' are about as substantial as a blade of grass.
For example, 'Satisfied' sports some nifty piano samples mixed up with some dubby drum rolls, with a chorus about a woman who is "...never satisfied - no matter how hard I try". Could Ben Esser be one of Lily Allen's many, crap shag ex boyfs? Maybe!
'Work it out' seems unimaginatively nicked from The Beatles on exactly the same subject matter, only, without any urgency or desire. "Lately, I know that we've been fightin' and I don't wanna fight anymore," laments Ben. "I've not worked hard for much but I know, that you're worth working for. Let's work it out." Come back Paul McCartney, much is forgiven. Just make it stop!
'I love you' is one of the better numbers on here with its mid-tempo strut. But it's here that Ben notes that "Love is no excuse for bad art". Well, even with that knowledge, it doesn't seem to be stopping him. 'Stop Dancing', an altogether moodier and more interesting number features plenty of falsetto Oooohs delivered in the same manner as you will have heard on TV on the Radio's album Dear Science from last year.
And, overall - that really does typify the problem with Esser. There's little original stuff here to get excited about. Peer FrankMusik and the little known Rob Marrare doing far more interesting things with soaring melodies and altogether stronger musicianship. Ben Esser is occupying a middling ground, where he just can't keep up. He has talent, of that there is little doubt - but, right now, the bar is out of reach.
Release date: 04/05/09