A real-life, lilly-livered publicist would probably bitch and moan and try to bury a bad album review like this one – but I feel great about it. Strange – but it somehow feels right to get a bad review by a Scottish dude who insults one of my songs as “Rush on a bad day”. Enjoy:
I would guess that when Ben Sommer finally after a decade or so put the finishing touches to his debut album, that I wasn’t really his intended target audience. First up I am not a resident of the US, hailing from Scotland as I do and secondly the most important aspect of an album to me is the music, with the political slant, or otherwise of the lyrics coming a distant last. A quick look at the cover of America’d, with its negative Stars ‘N’ Stripes, where the stripes are red and black and the stars are little images of deformed babies, terrorists, burgers and a turd, will tell you that Sommer is pissed at America and just about everything in it.
Describing his sound as indie prog rock, as Sommer does, the music on this album, which just makes it over the half hour mark, is in actual fact more like indie rock meets punk, with some prog (ish) arrangements and Ben’s rather Jello Biafra voice does work well in these surroundings. Opening number “Adult Children”, which bemoans lazy, spoilt kids of today who just want to play video games rather than tend to the lawn, is after a few spins a pretty effective introduction to this album, with its infuriatingly catchy “Itchy-Kitchy-Kitchy-Coo-Waaa-Waaa” chorus being irresistibly singalongable. That’s a sentiment I can live with, but when track two’s title “Speekie Engrish” covers exactly what it looks like it will concern, I have to admit that I am being lost more than a little and unfortunately the music can’t save the day this time, sounding instead more like Rush on an off day, without any ideas. The next target in the unobtusely titled “Henry Kissinger” is ahhh…. Henry Kissinger and it is the opening line of “He was a goose stepping son of a fraulein” that really made me wonder if I wanted to be listening to this album at all…..
Ploughing on however reveals that basically Sommer doesn’t really like anyone, or anything and that he ain’t afraid to holler about it (the ever so Iron Maiden “Run To The Hills” – “Wo-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o’s” in “Little Hitlers” are actually painful). Sommer plays all of the instruments on this album himself and to be fair there’s no denying his talent in that direction, but I can’t quite say the same for the actual song writing, with nothing new or vaguely exciting breaking through the angst and really it is hard to find these songs as any more than vehicles for his lyrical thoughts, which is after all, what this album is really all about. Closing track “Kill The Estrogen Queens”, where Sommer takes on the persona of MC Plosk being a great example of forgetting that if the songs are good, then people will listen to the lyrics. Instead the pseudo country-rap is just excruciatingly irritating, as is its fake poetry reading intro and being honest I had stopped caring about the “message” (I did say I wasn’t the target audience) by this stage and was just plain bored.
Now if I have misplaced the “humour” in this CD, I’ll apologise (the accompanying press release is rather intentionally (I hope) funny and self deprecating), but unless you like a bit of music with your politics and blinkered politics at that, then America’d is going to be a struggle.