London’s Benjamin Shaw has released EPs called ‘I Got the Pox, the Pox is What I Got’ and ‘Rumfucker’ in the past, and now he’s following 2011’s debut long-player ‘There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet’ with the pun-worthy ‘Goodbye, Cagoule World’, a mini album that clocks in at just under half an hour. Bringing up images of a battle in the rain, Benjamin is a label mate of Spectral Nights favourites The Superman Revenge Squad Band and Cloud and his music retains their wondrous but ever-so-slightly bitter outlook on life, love and the wold in general.
‘No One’ opens proceedings with a flickering recorded European (possibly German) conversation. It’s an interesting way to start an album and shows that Benjamin is a man who will play by his own rules. Early Patrick Wolf-style strings add to the disconcerting tone with scratchy violin and feedback combining in bleak unison. Eventually, a blast of guitar makes its way to the forefront as the other instrumentation begins to resemble a wave crashing in. Around four minutes, in a Jason Pierce-style voice, Benjamin lays his heart on the line as he decides: ‘No one can love you’. This honest outlook continues on ‘Always with the Drama’, a song that contains the line: ‘I’m too drunk to remember how to help you out’. With a DIY and lo-fi aesthetic in the production, the minimalist feeling really helps reinforce the themes of loneliness and despair that shape the record.
There’s a subtle nod to ‘Penny Lane’ on the more positive ‘Break the Kettles and Sink the Boats’, a song that brings back memories of Badly Drawn Boy’s terrific debut album. There’s also a gloriously deluded sense of humour featured throughout the seven songs, with ‘Magneto was Right’ including the slightly terrifying, but completely understandable, quandary@ ‘Is it better to wait for the dickhead, to decide if you’re equal to him, and sit in the dark in the bathroom, or just hammer his face on the sink’. That it’s delivered with not even the slightest hint of malice makes it all the more forceful. The glock-filled opening of ‘You & Me’ finds Benjamin at his most traditionally accessible and appearing to feel hopeful. There’s a childlike glee shining through in the instrumentation, even though the subject matter covers ‘sad faces’ and a statement that will resonate with so many people when it comes to the worst day of the week – ‘Oh, oh no, I’m fed up on a Tuesday’.
Throughout the all-too-short running time of the album, you get the feeling this is exactly the kind of pop music troubadour that John Peel would be fully behind – deliciously dark, compellingly creative and wonderfully weird. The title track contains the line ‘Frankly, I’m tired’, but hopefully Benjamin Shaw will continue to provide more and more music – it’ll take us a long time to get tired of ‘Goodbye, Cagoule World’.