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Ben Christophers The Spaces In Between Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

This, his third album, is a decidedly precocious and yet guile-free foray into the...

Bren O'Callaghan 2004

Something of an Aled Jones plastered with testosterone patches, Wolverhampton's finest (only?) singer-songwriter wastes no time in dividing his audience into opposing camps.

Opening track "Flowers Drink Upon The Ground" encapsulates both all that is good, and all that is needlessly whimsical about his music. "Queer as folk they think there's gold in those rugged streams but it's been dry for years," he sings. "They sway like empty clothes in soulless avenues, and they wind on like the roads, until the rain became their eyes...", mixing clichés with admittedly poetic babble like some holy seer after chowing a psychotropic stir-fry.

This, his third album following 1999 debut My Beautiful Demon and the pared down folk-electronica of 2001's Spoonface, cements a whimsical, decidedly precocious and yet guile-free foray into the embarrassing depths of public heartbreak. Have guitar, will bleed on request.

Ben finds himself pinned up alongside a usual suspects line-up that includes Jeff Buckley, a younger, less jaded Leonard Cohen, Aimee Mann in bobbled y-fronts and Radiohead's Thom Yorke - that arch purveyor of the delicious whinge. He struggles to live up to the comparisons...but pulls it off despite a vocal range that betrays room for improvement.

This madrigal of moon-faced melancholy soon hits his stride with the likes of foot-tapping "Good Day For The Hopeless", while "Everybody Stood To See Us" rivals the group hug inducing, feel-good lovers The Polyphonic Spree.

And there's more. "A Race For Me & Forever" adopts a Beatles-like jingoism with chirpy drum accompaniment while the Beck like "Devil To Kill"threatens to morph at any moment into MTV material.

Treading a fine line between saccharine and assured, Ben Christophers doesn't seem too bothered that, like a particularly tricky algebra equation, his working-out is scrawled all over this highly personalised offering. This is x (angst) plus y (honesty) multiplied by z (sincerity) = q (occasionally awkward but largely successful attempt at original composition).

In other words? You've passed, lad.

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