It's a fine album marred by a certain amount of trepidation.
Chris Jones 2009-03-20
Ben (or Benjamin as he now appears to want to be known) Taylor is, indeed, the son of Carly Simon and James Taylor. And along with a whole slew of celebrity offspring (Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Teddy Thompson, Inara George etc.) he's proving that talent really does run in the family. This third album expands on his semi-serious philosophy of martial arts combined with loping, vaguely trip hop-y folk (hence the title) and, while often a little too gentle on the ear, should see him win quite a few new fans along the way.
It's a fine album marred by a certain amount of trepidation. Songs like Wrong, She's Gone or Something For Nothing too often approach the Jack Johnson end of laid back acoustic material that's a tad anodyne. Lest we forget this word means 'soothing', which is fine enough, especially when stirred up with his nimble wordplay as it is on You're The One For Me. But when Taylor throws a little grit into the production then he rises to a whole new level. Take Dangerous Girl, where a skittering beat rattles under a r 'n' b lite groove that's part Lewis Taylor, part Steely Dan. Wilderness also often veers close to chaos in a pleasingly grimy way.
This isn't to say that the relaxing stuff isn't worth investigation. Being the son of Sweet Baby James has obviously left him with an easy way with heart-melting harmonies, not to mention a great voice. The crystalline, reverb-drenched, country-ish Space is as sweet as it gets.
There's nothing here that is remotely offensive to the ear and blandness isn't necessarily a crime, but with a little more of a push into adventurous territory Taylor could well break free of too many comfy associations and making us all sit up and take notice.