The Bennies Get Cynical In Weird & Brilliant ‘Trip Report’ Clip

28 June 2018 | 2:06 pm | Ross Clelland

"There does seem something a little questionable about these ‘cigarettes’ they keep speaking of."

It’s human nature to crave some touchstone, some familiarity when that artist you like puts out a new record. Then again, you don’t want exactly the same thing as last time – although millions of AC/DC or Ed Sheeran fans might argue that point.

But even on a spectrum that already includes an electronic dance anthem suitable for use in an international perfume campaign and an aching, low-key reworking of a Nick Cave hymn, you probably don’t expect Emma Louise to extend her inhabiting of a song to include a change of gender. Slowing and treating her vocals in a manner perhaps owing a little to Laurie Anderson’s musical ‘dragging’ experiments, for Wish You Well, Ms Louise becomes a man named Joseph. Following so far? The voice really feels like a man’s croon, featuring an attitude of observation rather than a woman’s empathy. But it all stands as a glorious piece of pop construction. It’s a little weird, but absolutely engrossing. With a sidebar of curiosity that you also like to hear the song sung in her ‘own’ more plaintive tones.

Without taking things quite that far, Mitski covers an extraordinary range of bases as well. Her arts and talent allows her to support The Pixies and Lorde, cover One Direction and Sinatra, and have Iggy Pop call her ‘advanced’ - take that last one as you will. Nobody might explain some of that broadness of appeal, as modern and traditional pop fall together. Initially, it seems light – even as it mentions global warming in the opening verse. Then there’s some quietly studied Joni Mitchell singer-songwriter feels, and then dances around the bedroom literally singing into a hairbrush. As you do. Or we did. She might be the future – or at least one part of it.

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Or hints of things can wander by almost incidentally. Middle Kids make frayed-but-shiny indie-ish pop from an inner-suburban share-house lounge much like the one in the clip. Don’t Be Hiding also has a slightly cockeyed, but certainly positive, smile coming through that might even have a touch of (American) west coast beach-country twang – if that is a thing. Yeah, of course it’s a thing – it’s what Haim do. Like them, you’ll like this. Like this, you probably like them too. But you knew that.

For a slightly more jaundiced observation of various human conditions, The Bennies wander round the neighbourhood before heading to the airport and back in Trip Report. Semi-spoken word verses stumble into wordless pub gig singalong choruses, as dog walking and vet bills get interrupted by one of those pain-in-the-arse squeegee guys at the lights who wash your windscreen with Christ-knows-what even though you ask them not to. But there’s an old married couple still holding hands in the departure lounge – and that’s a kinda happy ending. But the question remains – there does seem something a little questionable about these ‘cigarettes’ they keep speaking of. Hmm.

The model for Hot To Rot’s jagged post-punk funk guitars is pretty unashamedly stuff like early '80s Gang Of Four - you know, when they were good. Kindred is more of an existential yell than a political one, but the guitars are teetering into feedback, and the vocals tipping into the abyss to suggest they really mean it. The middle-eight breakdown is deceptively quieter, but also seethes mightily the more you listen. The band bio tells of their formation as “Blaise, Loretta and Jack met at a support group for doomsday enthusiasts. Together they vowed to raise enough money to install a grade A survival bunker.” Makes perfect sense in context.

OK, sure it may well be your name and all, but billing yourself as Blasko may cause an identification problem or two in this country – well, at least until the needle drops. This Melbourne singer does a good line in the modern soul/R&B style. Know You Better unfurls on an insistent groove, the currently-fashionable vocal treatments not entirely hiding the fact when left to his own human devices that this fella can actually sing. My only quibble, it almost seems to force itself to be a little more energetic as it goes, although it would probably work just as well if it stayed settled in the cool questioning tone with which it starts off. But maybe that’s just me.

But back to that first idea of needing that one thing to make a song as identifiable as a brand name – there are few more distinctive sounds in the pop music of the last 40 years than the gentle wiry chop of Nile Rodgers’ guitar - it’s just about the definition of ‘funky’. Hundreds have tried to ape it, the best of those only coming close. You might argue with him using the Chic name, allowing that the other superlative elements of that band’s trademark sound – Tony Thompson’s big-beat drums, and (even more) Bernard Edwards’ utterly elastic bass – have left the building, but Till The World Falls (Feat Cosha & Vic Mensa) is still a more than fair facsimile of the form, and not an embarrassment to their history or a mere cash-in. Hopefully.