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TLOBF Loves… frYars

16 June 2008, 09:00
Words by John Brainlove

frYars, aka the nineteen year old Ben Garrett, is something of a prodigy. His first two releases, EPs entitled ‘The Ides’ and ‘Olive Eyes’, combine lo-fi electronics with a rich, timbred voice and songs about childhood, jealousy, incest, cannibalism, war and murder; but there’s a contrasting lightness in frYars’ pop ditties that shows a pleasing sense of perversity.

Trying to pigeonhole frYars’ has proved tricky to the journos that have tried – widespread Nick Cave comparisons that have been bandied about in the London crapsheets seem like witless press release recycling. More viable links might include the “Dramatic Boy” school of pop, recently exponents of which include Patrick Wolf and Simon Bookish, or the vaguely experimental, literate alt-indie of clever young men like Jeremy Warmsley and Eugene McGuinness. Musically, there are echoes of one-hit-wonder White Town’s plinky bedroom-studio keyboard sound, and Cursor Miner’s more expansive take on ‘readymade’ synth sound palette. Piano-led ballad ‘The Novelist’s Wife’ is remniscent of Anthony & The Johnsons. But tellingly, none of these comparisons quite tell the whole story – frYars has evolved a pleasingly individual aesthetic.

Garrett’s lyrics are never less than intriguing, and are often resoundingly perfect. ‘happY’ is a complex and far-reaching take on The State Of Things that manages to talk about war, Pascal’s wager, politicans and concepts of good and evil, all bound up into a fearsomely catchy pop earworm.

The live show is something of a work in progress. Garrett giggles nervously throughout, using diffidence as a coping mechanism for youthful self-conciousness. This is compounded, or possibly caused, by a too-obvious session band and a smirking female counterpart who yelps backing vocals, feigns amusement and ostentatiously reads a book during songs in which she has no part to play. But the songs stand up regardless, just about, and the live show will come together in time as Garrett develops as a performer.

Live show aside, frYars is an excellent songwriter and a hugely promising studio project, with insightful, intelligent lyrics, a pleasingly non-traditional sonic approach and a strikingly individual singing voice. Potential is too small a word, and I await his debut album with bated breath.

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