Great review of america’d by Mr. Atavist

Thanks to Mr. Atavist for a great review of america’d. Kevin did some very deep listening and observing – which is humbling. He also pointed to some similarities in my music I hadn’t considered – e.g. to Gentle Giant and Adrian Belew.


Agitprop? Probably so. Or, for us, let’s say agitpop. Calling to mind the more straight-ahead rock leanings of some of Belew’s work, in and out of the Bears, Psychodots, touches of poppier Zappa, etc … and mixing in some late-era prog leanings, Ben Sommer makes his world view pretty clear on america’d {self-released}. His bio points out, among other things, “Learned to hate the state by working as a substitute teacher in various government schools … Cultivated a scowling, contrarian world view, suitable for my going-nowhere music career.” That says it better than I could. And Sommers doesn’t come across as someone who’s going to let anyone say anything for him, at least without consulting his inner “pent-up curmudgeon.”

Whether you agree with Sommer’s politics is your call. Last time I checked, and Sommer himself probably, you can think what you want in the red, white and blue. Theoretically … Agreement isn’t required. He’s blunt about where he’s coming from {Right Wing Fiend, Little Hitlers, Speekie Engrish} and lyrically it’s right in your face. On the surface that might make it seem simplistic, or even trafficking in approaches best left to children’s’ music, but if you look around you in the modern world, like Sommer obviously does, it is clear that those running the show, from the ground up, are nothing but children. That tact, in Sommer’s america, works. Kick-off track Adult Children makes his point {one of many}: “We live on styrofoam and plastic, and gasoline up to the gills. But when petroleum gets costly we petition capitol hill.”

Taking clues from those above as well as other progsters like Rush in their mid-career in-flux retoolings that encompassed some of the new wave and pop rock flying around at the time, Sommer pushes his tunes to the more art-pop side of things. A few tracks have a slight Civilian-era Gentle Giant slant that pushes his obvious love of prog-pop to the front. Mix is some vocals that Veins Dried Out nailed as reminiscent of Jello Biafra, and it’s a dish that is hard to categorize, or pigeon-hole. Which is probably how Sommer wants it. He’s obviously a big advocate of thinking for yourself, so make up your own mind where it fits in, or where it doesn’t. I still think there’s room left, on all sides.