Ben Sommer’s new self-produced album Super Brainfeatures a more polished release than america’d, but offers much of the same DIY sentiment and angst towards politics and consumerism. The album lacks a central focus, but I see this as sign that Sommer is growing as a musician, but this release only has the seedlings for what could be something to watch out for.
Although “Young Turks” features the signatory style of Sommer, it fails to lead off as a strong opening track as it feels as if it was somewhat unfinished. “Consumerism” begins a trilogy of ‘isms’ including “Militarism” and “Cadaverism”, all farces that target the constant hustle of shopping during the holiday seasons, shit-kicker slogans such as “Don’t Mess with Texas”, and what I’m guessing is a parody of electronic heavy metal.
Super Brain has an increased amount of Zappa influence, more so that his previous effort. It is nice to hear such an influence at the forefront of Sommer’s work. But after a certain point, the influence loses its luster and becomes an unflattering pastiche. “De Profundis” is another egregious example, although it also contains a heavy Rush presence. There is hope with Sommer’s more original fare such as “Fist” which seems to have Sommer keeping it simple and easy while finding a decent pocket to flex his muscle. The instrumental “Dark Grey Matter” will test your speaker’s higher frequencies but the track seems to be a lone wolf when compared to the rest of the album’s offerings.
It helps that—for a self-release—the mix is superb and all instruments are heard efficiently. Sommer does in fact compose songs that have epic tendencies lasting only a few manageable minutes, although some still run rather long. Sommer has done an ample job mixing and producing the album. What would really be a treat is if Sommer could get his brand of progressive rock out into the open and on stage.
Sommer maybe on to something with Super Brain, and he has certainly shown some musical and lyrical growth from his last release. The content of the album is everywhere giving Sommer a chance to comment openly about issues beyond politics, but the mental and physical shape of America. Despite this variety, Sommer becomes lost in his own revelations. His music is meant to be funny or at least offer some sort of comic relief. Even the most educated have to back away from most biting satires and say “sad, but its so true.” At this point, it is no longer funny. That is exactly what Sommer has done here, he has shown that we can make biting comments in song form about serious subjects for so long before the seriousness comes to the forefront. In that case, Sommer is on to something.