As I was listening to the Need New Body record Where's Black Ben? just now, the thought occurred to me that it was what Baltimore music has collectively been going for without being aware of it. The trashy collage of the album art, the goofy sense of humor. All the things that the press talks about when talking about Baltimore music through the lens of Dan Deacon is here, in an unaffected way, but there's a vision wide enough to encompass all sorts of weirder music that doesn't get discussed. Where's Black Ben has this tremendous diversity to it, with its dissonant free jazz and its banjo-led songs, that, while neglected at the time as an album, feels close enough to a vision of an entire small city's diverse music scene.
It's got this energy, that starts with goofs, moves on to songs with a variety of strengths, and then into more abstract territory. There are a million bands each trying to do a fraction of what's on display here, and many more people whose overall personality would be better represented by making music like this than what they're currently trying to accomplish. It all coheres thanks to arrangement, of the record as a whole and as songs with complexity and dynamic movement.
The album is far from perfect, with all its annoyances, but it's great, lovable in how much personality is display, and what that personality conveys as being "about." I feel like it should be on a list of the best records of the decade, just somewhere at the bottom.