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A review of...
Goodbye, Cagoule World by Benjamin Shaw
Benjamin Shaw seems like a broken man, with a voice that sounds on the brink of tears throughout these 7 mopey tracks. This is good news for those of us who enjoy capitalising on other people's misery, but when you scrape the surface there's plenty here to uplift everyone but the fella singing the songs. Its being release by Audio Antihero who have definite form, they released Shaw's well received debut (There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet) along with Crackle's favourite album of 2013, so its no real surprise that this is another wonderfully weird record.
The album opens with "No One", a psychotic mix of eerie field recordings and strings which bleeds into a final three minutes of beautiful subdued guitar and just two lines of lyrics which are stretched out over it. On "Always With The Drama" a patronising sampled voice reads a list of rules for office working and etiquette, perhaps a recurring nightmare for Shaw who doesn't seem to be a stickler for the rule book. This very track has bits of cello sitting somewhat starkly alongside drum machines and various sporadic samples, its satisfyingly unique trick.
"Break The Kettles and Sink The Boats" has a more jaunty vibe with a warm backing, brass hook and imaginative, playful lyrics which conjure up a fairytale world that Shaw seems to be briefly inhabiting. The masterful "Magneto Was Right" is weirdly the most accessible song on the record. I say weirdly because its got very blackened lyrics like "Is it better to wait for the dickhead / to decide if you're equal to him? / and sit in the dark in the bathroom / or just hammer his face on the sink", all the time accompanied by a county slide guitar (by Jack Hayter ex-of Hefner). Its like Angels Of Light Michael Gira in moody/sentimental mode. Again, this is the most accessible song on the record.
I should note that it took me about 10 listens to really "get" Goodbye, Cagoule World. Its definitely not an easy listen and may be dependent on mood, but if you stick with it the rewards are aplenty. For instance, it ends with a slumberous epic of a title track, a single key of a piano builds up with layers of guitar, more piano, feedback and a full live band with Shaw's pessimistic words counter balancing a melody that is, at times, thoroughly uplifting. Goodbye, Cagoule World is as ambitious as it is short, and it is all too short (at a concise 29 minutes), but with Benjamin Shaw we've got a new anti-folk hero.