I originally had this on UMR, but this is the more logical spot for it. Besides we will be covering Ben's new album very soon, so I thought I would give this a fresh posting.
Over on my sister site, The CD Reissue Wish List, we've featured a number of bands that are politically oriented. In some cases, the words are their raison d'etre, while in others the political message represents the lyrical content for an otherwise complex progressive rock album. In Germany, the movement is known as Polit-Rock. In Sweden, it carries the moniker of Progg. And as you can imagine, especially given most of these bands were from the late 1960's and early 70s, they represent the proverbial left. Sometimes extremely so (especially in Sweden - just listen to the Ho Chi Minh chants on International Harvester, who in turn were sponsored by The Communist Youth League). So it should come as no surprise, in these modern post-everything times, that there would be a natural backlash to these former ideologues. And with that setup, we introduce Ben Sommer, who describes his music as "edgy, political prog rock".
With track names like "Speekie Engrish", "Henry Kissinger", "Right Wing Fiend", and "Kill the Estrogen Queens", it doesn't take too much research to figure out that Ben is no Big Government lefty. We mentioned in the prologue about the two kinds of polit-rock groups - those where the message takes precedence and those where they represent the lyrical content only, but the music is of utmost importance. Sommer's music fits in the middle of these parameters. The opening tracks possess more of a straightforward punk rock angst, recalling some of the early 80's German Neue Deutsche Welle bands. But as the disc rolls on, he begins to incorporate more complex compositions and meters, while employing a diverse set of instrumentation. This is best demonstrated on the track "Sumerian Proletarian", which employs the duduk (an Armenian reed instrument) - and is the highlight of the album for me. There are other interesting passages ("Henry Kissinger" in particular), and Sommers proves to be adept at both guitar and bass.
As someone who enjoys listening to albums in a foreign tongue, and who spent a wasted youth listening to incomprehensible heavy metal, it's safe to assume that lyrics have never been an important factor for yours truly. I tend to be apolitical when it comes to music. It's an interesting start, and a unique idea to integrate social libertarian commentary into progressive rock. I'd personally like to see Sommer put more emphasis into complex form and composition (which he has proven to be capable of), but that's just for my benefit of course. Overall, a good effort.
More info about Ben Sommer here.