2009-07-17 – The Dwarf

Originally by Alex Eldridge at The Dwarf. Most entertaining review I’ve read so far..

Tunisia – Two False Idols (Album)

by Alex Eldridge | Friday, July 17

He may be Craven by name but rest assured there is nothing subversive about the tunecraft. Ben Craven certainly knows what he wants and how to get it but does that mean anyone else is going to like it? It’s always this way with one-man-bands: the auteur, striving away at painstaking task of realising his vision. No doubt this end product is Craven’s vision, not a detail is spared and barely a song under three minutes. His endeavour is that of art rock, making music for music’s sake. This is of itself, is commendable but only because he pulls it off. Mostly.

Dancing delicately (or as delicately as the following genres allow) between an amalgam of Country, prog-rock, pub rock, and acoustic strumming Craven attempts to create a musical ideal. And, in a Chinese Democracy sort of way, I think he’s succeeded. ‘Cinematic rock’, Craven calls it, cheekily, and admittedly there is a sense of grandeur though it’s contrition begins to crack through pretty quick-smart.

Lyrically, he stumbles between Aussie facetiousness and balladeering insipidry, without ever attempting to synthesise this two. Lines about trading in supermodels for newer ones seem catchy and clever at first but quickly dilapidate into haughty kitsch.

The intriguing Captain Caper is the exception here, Craven spinning a tale of deluded superheroism through a shit load of reverb. The breakdown is especially haunting with ghostly guitars swarming eerily around a simple, droning acoustic guitar line, giving the tune a welcome Spanish touch. It must be said, for an indie production, actually a bedroom production, the sound quality is absolutely immaculate. Ironically, it’s his less than perfect voice that is the weak link in the otherwise perfectly executed performance. It’s not a bad voice, but there’s a clearly untrained roughness to it, which in another context might sound endearing.

But pushed out in front of the glittering guitars and crystalline drums, it simply sounds messy and amateurish. To his credit, there is a clumsy sincerity in Craven’s words and he usually comes across more Pink Floyd than Dream Theater (though that could be more due to his use of Dave Gilmoresque slide guitar.) As much as you want to skip hurriedly through the soppy acoustic ballads, and make no mistake; they’re all crap, one is never driven to hurl the record case at the wall yelling ‘Hack!’ as you might with, say, the Juno soundtrack? Not that its that bad, but all the same, be wary: the slower come heavily sugared. If you can make it through them, though, otherwise it’s pretty listenable.