2009, Music

White Lies for Dark Times (2009) by Ben Harper and Relentless7

I have long struggled with Harper. When I arrived at University at the beginning of this century, I don’t know what I was expecting, but what I found was that there was a remarkable amount of commonality in the “underground” music that was cool. In fact, looking back it seems really odd to me that it was so uniform. (I guess that has a lot to do with going to a school in a very small town.) Harper was one of the people I was supposed to like – everyone else seemed to like him – while I was obsessing over prog rock and anything weird I could find. I was always sort of confused as to why someone like him was considered so “hip,” for lack of a better word.

As an adult I have tried to give him more of the benefit of the doubt, but I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed his music. He’s like the black John Mayer or, rather, I guess John Mayer is the white Ben Harper – a talented musician with a lack of taste. (I feel like this is too cruel.) Or he’s a more talented, slightly more tasteful Lenny Kravitz. Either way, he’s never done anything for me.

So this is refreshing. The aesthetic is a lot more up my alley, though he still succumbs to his desire to write ballads (at least once or twice). The Relentless7 are a better band (to my ears) than the Innocent Criminals, though either is preferable to the man solo. And I feel like I might actually listen to this on occasion in the future.

The record still has his problems: Harper remains a poor lyricist, and his attempts at profundity are awkward and sometimes even borderline-embarrassing. Also, the sequencing is bizarre. Why the album ends on “Faithfully Remain” rather than something that sounds like the rest of the record, I’ll never know. That last song makes me forget the rock of the rest of the album. An odd decision.

7/10

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