“Oooh look at me, I’m so wacky!” – we all know the type: so desperate for others’ attention to the extent that they will go out of the way to be that ‘zany’ guy, seemingly amusing on the surface, but get to know them and within two weeks they’ve strangled your dog and stolen your rucksack. Mr Ben & The Bens are described as a “surreal indie act“, which sets alarm bells ringing already, but bear with them because, here’s the rub, they’re NOT really very surreal at all, and they’re DEFINITELY not at all zany either. Once you’ve figured this out, you can start to enjoy the music properly, without looking over your shoulder in case the bass player is eating his toenails while setting your hair on fire. Phew.
In truth, Sheffield based Lancastrian Ben Hall and his accomplices here deliver a handsome set of polished pop songs, beginning with the Radiohead like title track and often hitting the heights of peak Belle & Sebastian. The ever so slightly off kilter guitar riffery of ‘He Is The One‘ is hard to resist, and the rest of the album lies somewhere between Sparks and early-ish British Sea Power. The cheery ‘Transmissions‘ is a ridiculously infectious highlight, if a tad too short, but arguably one of the tracks of the year, while the track that follows it, ‘Celecongratulations‘ begins like a latter day Beatles number but is probably best described as a seventies glam rock version of a different set of boundary pushing Liverpudlians – Clinic.
If we gauged how good an album was by how much it makes you smile, then Who Knows Jenny Jones? would be forever in the upper echelons of the end of year charts. But don’t let that mislead you into thinking that this is in any way a laugh a minute, throwaway record, it’s most definitely not that, as evidenced by the serious but extremely agreeable Jean Michel-Jarre type synths on instrumental ‘Equestria‘. But the twee pop is always lurking underneath the slightly skewiff melodies, so while ‘It All Collapses In The End‘ is a pleasant enough foot tapper, somehow it seems a little bit too weedy to be the album’s finale, which is a shame, as there is much to enjoy here. Well worth investigating all the same.
Who Knows Jenny Jones? is out now on Bingo Records.