So Graham Coxon reckons that there’s no chance of any new material from Blur when they get back together later in the year. Oh well, never mind eh? As it turns out, we’ll probably all be shrugging our shoulders by that time, because here comes Esser, who has encapsulated all that was great about early Blur and come up with one of the best albums of the year so far.
You may know Ben Esser from his tenure as the drummer in Ladyfuzz. If he’s escaped your radar so far, then be prepared, because he’s likely to be everywhere within the next few months. Not that he’s particularly easy to miss anyway, what with his loaf of bread haircut scraping the clouds, and his one man mission to make penny loafers and white socks fashionable once again.
Style mags will probably be all over him, but we’re far more concerned with music and as luck would have it, Mr Esser has a mighty fine stock of sweet tunes.
‘Leaving Town’ kicks things off with a flourish with its incessant bass line and thunderous bass drum pattern; but it’s the roar of the brass that announces Esser and the infectious school yard chants that hook you and force your feet into some suave dancing shoes.
‘Braveface’ is a classic pop tune, the kind of thing that should be streaming out every radio as soon as the sun breaks cover. Laid back and straight forward, Esser comes over like a young Ian Dury with cynical lines such as “when you feel like you’ve had all you can take, tie a brick round your ankles and jump in the lake”. Such seemingly dour lyricism is kept in check with summery backing vocals that have hit written all over them.
We’ve had a problem with ‘Headlock’ ever since we heard last year. It’s not that it’s an awful song, far from it in fact, it’s just that it’s a bastard to get out of your head once you’ve heard it. Its skittish beats and quirky squelching bass forces the song along like a drunk trying to push a fucked shopping trolley. Then there’s that quirky little lo-fi electro break that’s as simple as it is infectious. But that chorus. Oh, that chorus. It’s had us waking up at four in the morning proclaiming “Oh you’ve got me in a headlock, nothing in the world’s gonna help me now” so be warned, it could give you sleepless nights.
Elsewhere Esser touches on a variety of styles including that of the much ignored genre of Greek wedding reception music for ‘Satisfied’ (just one of a number of tracks that comment on the problems of love and relationships). Electro pop gets a good going over on ‘We Can Work It Out’, while he flexes his Indie rock muscles on ‘This Time Around’.
Esser’s best moment comes on the stripped back ‘Bones’ as he muses on raking over the past where his conversational style is infused with more emotion than at any other point on the album.
Ben Esser is no knackered stallion. Many will point to his quiff, his bedroom production or a perceived notion that he’s this years Lily Allen (God help us), but be assured this is an album of real depth and quality, and one that will surely introduce a real talent to a larger audience.