A bands’ sound matters. Well, it doesn’t, of course – this is rock and roll, yeah? – but it does. Look: as much as Steve Albini insists he’s a recording engineer, simply allowing a band to sound as they themselves desire, and not acting as their producer, he can’t ignore artists repeatedly choosing him in the hope a bit of that wonderful Albini sound – and there is one – rubs off onto their work too.
Bands always want to sound like themselves, but can’t help being swayed by the golden idea of having their hi-hats sound a bit like the ones on In Utero too.
Today’s New Band probably admire Albini as much as any other indie band, but don’t have too many sonic associations with Big Black. They sound slick – a word hung heavy with terrible Kenny G associations – but slick they are. I hope Special Benny aren’t offended by that description. By slick, I mean ‘competent, confident and crystallised’, which perhaps would have been a better starting point.
As it begins, Air Filter is rich and delicious and swirling, like Italian ice cream, so when it splits unexpectedly into a sax break (oh yes!), it’s a huge drum-battering shock. Drums and Phase, indulgent, peculiar and smooth, ought to be unlovable, but will win you over by sheer force of charm.
Like Hunger, it’s dinner party music in it’s most palatable, endearing form, chirpy, alive and fun – which so little ‘serious’ music is. The arrangement almost dips into Shoegaze territory, swooping and lush. “If you’re hungry you can feed on my flesh” is the only, poignant, strange lyric.
Special Benny deserve attention because of their obtuse positioning in the indie rock world. Their songs won’t – can’t – please everyone, but they’re hard to hate; and so are interesting: another word loaded with cruel complication but not a word that could be used with regards to many bands. Listen and judge.