Set In The Back – Ben McNeil (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

29540961_833524040185572_5889957959016556393_nWe have probably all got accustomed to the current wave of singer-songwriters who revel in fashion fixations and dreams of celebrity, production line pop pose and style over substance, as the accepted norm. But that’s what makes Ben McNeil a breath of fresh air and as Flying High kicks the album off you get to hear an echo of the drive and passion that made the post-punk New Wave and deft New Pop which followed so vibrant and edgy. That in itself would be reason enough to take this album to heart but throughout the following collection of songs McNeil wanders the back roads of acoustic pop, exploring roads less travelled, roads with the most interesting views, roads which those on the fast track to fame and fortune couldn’t even find on the map.

I’m not saying that this album couldn’t result in glittering accolades, I’m just saying its nice to see him not just playing the obvious card. Always employs the understatement of a David Gray classic and the following track No One goes a step further and runs right up against Damien Rice’s spacious workplace. Everything To Me combines the fine pop ingredients that Crowded House took to their heart and rock is even on the menu with the bigger stadium sounds of Prove To Me.

It wanders wonderfully between its acoustica, pop-rock and singer-songwriter boundaries, straying far enough to keep things interesting but not too far that it falls into inconsistency. Ben McNeil knows his own heart and the path he wants to follow, but then look at the references I have pulled out of the albums musical weave, all successful and all revered by the masses, but on their own terms. And that is a path Ben could easily find himself heading down.


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