DAVID BENJAMIN BLOWER
THE BOOK OF BARE LIFE & RETURNS: Praying the Psalms in the Anthropocene
Why do we drink? Sometimes it’s to make sense of reality, or to transform ourselves in our own eyes. I used to think that the ‘real’ me was a happily drunk and stoned man who could still walk and talk and operate dangerous machinery. And my missus has often said, to paraphrase a Latin phrase, that drunk people tell the truth about themselves.
Some singers drink in order to ‘find’ a voice. Especially British singers and white American singers from more privileged backgrounds. There’s a perceived authenticity there, in a drinker’s drawl. And it’s easier to slip into an American accent, or slur certain words that blur meaning, give it a coating of mystery or sincerity. Joe Strummer perfected a drunken hoarseness, which was probably real inebriation a lot of the time, and Tom Waits, was a famous drunkard until he sobered up at the moment when his music became most drunken but has sounded drunk ever since.
This album by Benjamin Blower sounds drunk. A sit in the snug, observing in the shadows, away from the firelight kind of drunk. A man arrives at a fantasy pub, stuck on a hillside somewhere between Wales, Eire and Norfolk, he’s already drunk, but not so you would notice. It’s a sad drunk. A young man reaching the kind of old age gained after a couple of realisations that have removed the joy from his life so that he must ponder and shake his head at the stupid world until, at last, in the morning, still reeling, his gaze is drawn to a bird of prey intent on killing something, flying in graceful eights and circles above. At which point he experiences a Blake-ian ecstasy which is blood and hormones and love and last night’s booze.
Then he writes a song.
It’s a sad, gorgeous album, at its most potent when it is most simple, drones or flamming, picked guitar chords and voice. The words are best experienced within the songs - we don’t need more bible, more messages or lessons. There is more lesson in the sound and the places the noise combinations take you. And I would worry that close examination of the lyrics would leave me with an argument. And there’s enough of them, too.
DBB takes us to a place with a forgotten view, access to the river, the gap between containers and pylons that frames a ruined chimney, or a cafe with the best cuppa in town. He guides us, quietly and you don’t want to ask too many questions because the answers could be puzzles or conspiracies and the real good stuff is just that guiding quality. That’s the beauty of music, of art. It exists all by itself once it’s made. The journey, then the thing, and then whoever took you there slips off to become a misty memory. You’re left with a kind of sensory wisdom - you know something you didn’t before but struggle to know exactly what it is. It’s a good thing, of benefit, sure, leaves you, me, feeling a little sad, too.
Main image by Richard Harris
David Benjamin Blower on Bandcamp⇒