Ben Sommer - Super Brain. 2011 private.
As you all saw, I moved last year's review of Ben Sommer's debut album over here to the UTR blog. I think that's worth reading first to give you an idea of where Ben is coming from both philosophically and musically.
It's interesting, and entirely a coincidence, that I heard for the first time Franz K's second album "Rock in Deutsch" (1973, CD reissue on Sireena) immediately before listening to Ben's latest offering. Franz K (not a person, but a band named after literary author Franz Kafka) were one of Germany's early adopters to the polit-rock movement which proliferated throughout Germany in the 1970s. Like Sommer, Franz K mixed complex rock with political dialog.
So last year I challenged Ben with this: "I'd personally like to see Sommer put more emphasis into complex form and composition." But I didn't actually expect him to listen to me! On Super Brain, Sommer definitely puts the prog in his self-assessed "edgy, political prog rock" motif. Well, that will most certainly reduce his audience... but it makes me happy anyway LOL. Really, Ben Sommer has created an album that would fit comfortably with the avant progressive crowd, minus the politics of course.
The album starts in a straightforward manner with "Young Turks", but gets interesting quickly with the Gentle Giant influenced "I Married a Prostitute" (I find these titles hilarious). And Sommer often multi-track's his voice for the harmony effect. I like the heavy Hammond organ sample for "Baby Mother", and the vocals again remind me of GG. The Christmas styled acapella of SHOPPING, SHOPPING, SHOPPING from "Consumerism" is hysterical. My home state of Texas gets a send up through Ben's self-described pent-up curmudgeon's cynicism on "Militarism". Then how about a little death metal jingle? The appropriately named "Cadaverism" is on display for that. "De Profundis" is a complex avant progressive tune sounding similar to the Ske album we recently covered. And it's primarily instrumental, proving once again that if Ben wanted to pursue this route, he's more than capable of doing so. Sommer continues to amp up the complexity on the Echolyn influenced "Count to Twelve".
Then comes the longest track "Dark Grey Matter", which is entirely instrumental and is brilliant in fact! While not quite as heavy, it actually reminded me some of the gymnastic progressive metal of Spastic Ink (though I should emphasize, this isn't really metal). Closer "Cloaca Maxima" (literally meaning "greatest sewer") revisits the style found on "De Profundis".
An excellent sophomore release!
I've found Mr. Sommer to be incredibly courteous in the couple of years I've known him (God knows he was patient with me in getting this review out). Seems like a guy I'd love to share a microbrew with at the local pub and we can talk politics.
You can hear and buy the album here.