ALBUM REVIEW: BEN WRIGHT-SMITHTHE GREAT DIVORCE

Australian music fans have always had a place in their hearts for home-grown bands with a finely honed appreciation of sun-drenched, jangling pop, that is ripe with infectious choruses and musical hook lines.

So, if in the past, you have enjoyed records by Aussie performers such as The Stems, The Crystal Set, The Sleepy Jackson, The Smallgoods, The Bank Holidays, Ice Cream Hands and Bob Evans, then you will most certainly enjoy Ben Wright-Smith’s first album, The Great Divorce.

It is an album full to the brim with wonderful catchy hooks that cascade through each second of its forty six minute running time – with each song offering up new variations on the joyous rhythms and chord sequences that categorise the very best in pop music.

If you are one of those four hundred thousand people who have already heard Wright-Smith’s Triple J staple, Sand Grabber, on Spotify, or have checked out his first hit, No One, then you will know what to expect. Both of those songs are here, and they still sound as fresh and vibrant as they did upon first hearing them.

The good news is that he has come up with another nine tunes equally as addictive as those two glorious slabs of sweet musical confectionery, all of which are destined to revivify even the most jaded pop aficionado.

For example, Commotion. Ocean. is simply a magnificent tune, melodic, energetic and as addictive as hell. You cannot imagine the album could have a higher point of excellence – until Heavy starts, and then its shining pop brilliance is bettered again by the gorgeous I Don’t Want To Know – and this odd process of songwriting one-upmanship Wright-Smith engages in with himself continues upping the ante until the end of the very last track.

OK, this all sounds a little hard to believe, I know – it cannot possibly be that wonderful!

Yes,  there are some ‘flaws’ here: Wright-Smith’s voice may be a little too ‘cartoonish’ for some tastes; the first track, Nightmare In The City, whilst perfectly fine, is perhaps the weakest song here, so the sequencing may be a little awry in that respect, and it may stop some listeners from progressing beyond track one; the album title is a little pretentious too, borrowing as it does from C.S. Lewis’ open letter in which he mused on Christian perceptions of heaven and hell, which may suggest, perhaps, that lines, such as those that open the title track,

‘Like a crayon Kama Sutra / An artist and a diplomat / Like a sad Russian doll in the temple of the siamese cat / Like a scientific theory based upon a hand in a hat / A wide eyed collector / Nomadic with a sack full of possessions / She’ll be moving on soon…’

are potentially pregnant with deeper philosophical meaning than they first appear to be, even when they are probably meant to be no more than an appealing playfulness with language.

These are minor quibbles though – overall, The Great Divorce is a total triumph of songcraft and musicianship.

One sad inevitability of the immediacy of these songs, however, is that it will only be a matter of time before advertising agencies pillage this record and prostitute these tunes for use and over-exposure in TV ads for power companies, soft drink manufacturers and other products that want to align their brand with the pure adrenaline rush that these songs conjure up in the listener.

Ben Wright-Smith has produced a record that warrants the hype that precedes it, even if  his PR team need to do some homework on defining genre parameters. They have classified Wright-Smith as an ‘up-tempo indie-folk’ artist – a ludicrous claim unless they believe The Monkees, The Fountains of Wayne, The Apples In Stereo and bands of their ilk are all folk artists too!

Get hold of this album, listen to it once, and then I bet you will find it very hard not to hit the repeat button and play it again and again…

 

Ben Wright-Smith’s The Great Divorce is out now on Ronnie Records through MGM Distribution.

Ben Wright-Smith’s The Great Divorce Tour will come to Adelaide, at The Exeter Hotel, on Saturday June 3rd.