Benjamin Wesley, Geschichte

Benjamin Wesley, Geschichte

Where the hell do I start? Just to get ’em out of the way, let’s hit the negatives (such as they are) with Benjamin Wesley’s debut EP, Geschichte, first. For one, the disc sadly can’t compare to seeing the guy live — there’s just no topping watching, open-mouthed, as Wesley nonchalantly plays bass, guitar, keys, and harmonica (and sings, obviously) all at the same freaking time. He just stands there like a kicked-back, wise-beyond-words sage who knows exactly what the fuck it is he’s doing, even if you don’t, and serenely plays, shifting effortlessly from one instrument to another or using multiple instruments at once. And good as Geschichte is — and yes, it is — nothing can beat witnessing that first-hand.

The only other quibble, really, is the length of the tracks, which never dip below 4 minutes and near or top 6 on half of the songs on here, and it can get a bit wearing at points. Again, live the songs drift and sway and suck you in in a way that makes you hardly care that you’ve basically been listening to the same beat for more than six minutes, but here I caught myself wondering when the current cool-ass track would end so the next cool-ass track could step in. It’s honestly the longest six-song EP I’ve run across in a while.

Those little caveats aside, though, Geschichte is one of those oddball releases that makes you scratch your head and wonder how in the hell it ever came to be. Wesley (full name Benjamin Wesley Winder, alumnus of bands like Tha Fucking Transmissions and Basses Loaded) stitches together a set of unlikely sounds — the crazy car-horn sound and Mellencamp guitars on “People Will Never Stop Being Crazy,” for one example — that really shouldn’t work the way they do, throws on his mellow-yet-serious lyrics in a rough, cigarette-scratched croon/howl, and delivers it all with an air of somebody who’s doing what they want to do and don’t care who’s watching.

The lyrics veer from the sublime to the silly, confessional and personal but not too intimate, the ramblings of one hell of a talented coffeehouse poet. In the span of one track, Wesley can take a wry, deadpan jab at drinking your coffee Irish while driving and then warn menacingly that, “you haven’t seen angry,” and sound like he means it both ways. He’s rough and tender in equal parts, playing the latter to particularly nice effect on the title track, which is plaintive and sweet in spite of being an end-of-the-world love story.

Musically, the album’s a weird, wonderful grab-bag mess of sound, diving headlong into lonesome country harmonica one second, shiny-bright Afrobeat guitar the next, and a Darling Buds-esque melody the moment after that. Wesley melds beats nicely with the instrumentation, in a way that makes me think of the criminally underappreciated Beta Band more than anything else. The Beta Band, in fact, is probably Wesley’s closest musical peer; the two share the same mostly flat, unaffected vocals, unlikely-yet-irresistible pop melodies, electronicized rhythms, and trippy, long-running pseudo-psychedelic vibe. Throw in the bits that I’d swear sound like they emanated out of a Soweto dancehall, and the result comes off like Steve Mason & co. covering The Rhythm of the Saints, particularly when it comes to tracks like “Beat Bloody Battle Axes” or awesome closer “Have You Ever Died?”

Except, of course, that it’s coming from that one guy standing up there on the stage with the guitar and bass both hanging from his neck, idly noodling on the keyboards while he fingers chords, dances languidly in place, and croons to the microphone like it’s the only thing in the room. How do you beat that?

[Benjamin Wesley is playing 5/22/09 at Mango's, along with Spain Colored Orange.]
(self-released; Benjamin Wesley -- http://www.myspace.com/benjaminwesleywinder3)
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Review by . Review posted Friday, May 22nd, 2009. Filed under Reviews.

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2 Responses to “Benjamin Wesley, Geschichte

  1. SPACE CITY ROCK » Benjamin Wesley Releases New Song & Prepares to Drop New Album (Hallelujah!) on February 7th, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    […] it turns out that since the release of his mind-blowingly cool/trippy/mesmerizing EP, Geschichte, way, way back in 2008, local one-man-band Benjamin Wesley hasn’t been just sitting on his […]

  2. SPACE CITY ROCK » Giveaway Time: Tickets to Benjamin Wesley’s CD Release (+ Listening Party Tonight!) on September 28th, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    […] obviously, there’s Wesley himself, who’s taken the damn good stuff from his early EP, Geschichte, and made it freaking great. His latest stuff is dark and raw and intense and personal while […]

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