Saturday, August 15, 2009

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.


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Anonymous said...

you know its funny you bring up this point. i've spoken to erin many times about how it was seeing need new body as a teenager. around age 17 or so, i saw them play in philly, and i remember thinking "why the hell are there people walking around is if they are getting ready to work out at some neon YMCA in 1984?"i guess this was one of my first introductions to the current rainbow subculture, but the free jazz, the mashed pop 'stop snitching' t shirts that the party's dj was wearing, the very good looking people gone 'weird' etc, just everything seemed to symbolize a new era of irony. i cant hate the music completely, its not really my jam, but damn if this isnt't an accurate observation about the current state of the art.

erin wo said...

saw them at MACRoCK 2002

bp baggins said...

where's black ben is a good album, but i think the one before it, ufo, holds up better. actually i feel that way about most of the bands that ended up putting albums out on 5rc (no neck blues band, wooden wand vanishing voice, metalux, inca ore, the planet the, etc.) they got an advance to record the albums and more promotion for these records but the ones before them are a little more exciting. oh well! need new body were still a good band and i'd listen to where's black ben before listening to man man or icy demons.