Review Summary: Beacons 2.0, incorporating all of Ben Sharp’s growth over the years.
It wouldn’t surprise me if someone told me that Ben Sharp was their hero. While a good majority of musicians are talented and passionate about what they do, they regulate their devotion to a hobby and pastime due to their fondness of water, electricity and a roof over their head. And while wearing a tie during the day and rocking out at night is still a great consolation prize, Ben Sharp takes it one step further by hammering out stunning diy material when he’s not punching the clock. His latest offering, Subsume
, is the next in the steady line of Cloudkicker releases, and it is arguably the very best so far.
Anybody who liked Beacons
and early Cloudkicker will really have a lot to sink their teeth into this time around. This is Beacons
2.0, incorporating all of Ben Sharp’s growth over the years since: the crisp, layered, production of Fade
and the quiet, breathable sensibilities of Let Yourself Be Huge
lend to the album’s sound, and it’s a more manageable listen because of it. The first song, which comprises of the last half of the first track and first bit of the second, comes out at you like a classic Cloudkicker number: tight, schizophrenic rhythms coupled with the heavy guitar and bass strikes keeps you guessing with your mullet swaying and metal horns in the air. The second part of the second song explores that further, with the signature envelopes of guitar noises and static soaring in the background as the rhythms come at you in a blinded fury. If you wanted heavy out of Cloudkicker this time around, you’re not going home disappointed.
But along with the return to heavier form, Cloudkicker does utilize a lot of tricks found on Fade
and Let Yourself Be Huge
, which is a very tasteful weapon that he’s added to his repertoire. Slower, breathable, finely-produced numbers also appear on Subsume
, proving that Ben can do more than just try to kick your head in, as displayed at the end of “A weather front...”. It’s a brilliant change of pace that was never really fleshed-out on Beacons
, and it gives a chance for the listener to anchor themselves in the midst of all the chaos. The growth of Ben is evident on Subsume
, and it’s an all more refreshing listen because of it.
But with most Cloudkicker albums, I find that the amount of unique, engorging ideas are lacking throughout the album’s entire length. Moving more towards the end of the album, mostly all of “He would be riding the subway…”, features more of a wandering, experimental-type of execution, and while it is a nice contrast to the tightly focused attack earlier in the album, it seems a bit shallow in terms of direction or substance. And when the end of the song does pick up into a stabbing guitar riff, it just seems less-thought-out than the other, more menacing riffs. Finally, the last track, “You could laugh forever but never end up happy”, shows Cloudkicker doing its best Russian Circles impression: a soft, sparkling build-up crashing into to an explosion of noise that crashes in waves until the end of the album. It succeeds as a powerful bookend to the chaos of Subsume
, but again, it just seems lacking in a central, focused idea.
For who he is and what he is able to accomplish, Ben Sharp deserves nothing but praise. When listening to Cloudkicker, I always have to remind myself that this is an ultra-talented musician working from his basement and not some road-weary four-piece band locked up in a studio. Subsume
may be his finest work, but it seems again that he’s smacking his head on the glass ceiling: another terrific album that is only a couple of more great ideas away from being truly spectacular. Nonetheless, fans of any style or era of Cloudkicker should enjoy his work here, and despite wanting a bit more out of the ideas behind the sound, I can’t wait to hear what’s he’s got next up his sleeve.