Benjamin Folke Thomas
The Missing Articulate Link Between Cohen and Cobain.
A few days ago I got involved in a futile discussion a friend who was really excited at the prospect of a new Mumford & Sons album because in his opinion, ‘the state of music these days is rubbish’ and ‘there being nothing interesting out there these days’.
I got in my car and played this album…… and contritely grinned my way home thinking “you don’t know what you’re missing matey!”
He’s been around for a while now; but Ben Folke Thomas only came to my attention (and most other people”s) with his Copenhagen album last year; and I still chuckle at the thought of his ‘Live’ album earlier this year too.
I won’t go into his back story again; but for a young man born on a remote island off the coast of Sweden he sure can make Folk music that defies musical boundaries and natural boundaries.
First and foremost he’s a story teller masquerading as a singer-songwriter that ploughs his own furrow; regardless of what everyone else is doing around him. And for that; you have to admire him.
Using his full band and blasting through this recording in only two days; you can sense the excitement and even freshness right from the first song, the acutely observant Tasteless & Complacent which has some cool backing singers doing ‘woo hoos’ and a lush melody disguising some very sharp lyrics; which won’t surprise existing fans in the slightest.
Thomas chose to write these songs around a piano, rather than his guitar; and the delicate and spellbinding second track One Day still revolves around that beautiful instrument and will make any other songwriter hearing it sit up and listen; then let out a big sigh as Thomas recalls his early life and dreams playing for free, in a smoky bar.
I rad a lot of bios that list an artistes ‘inspirations’ and usually just shake my head as they try to appear ‘cool’ for the sake of being ‘cool’; but in this instance you can definitely hear the intensiveness of Nirvana coupled to the wordplay of Leonard Cohen weaving their way through Dead Horizon and the punchy poetry of Some People; but it’s that modern twist on Punky-Folk Rock that makes this album special.
Ben’s subject matter is left of centre; yet somehow he reels you into songs like Modern Man with ease; even if you can’t decide if it’s a tale of unrequited love or stalking; but sometimes the difference can be quite blurred, as the narrator finds out.
Then, of course there has to be a Favourite RMHQ song; and finding a genuine ‘winner’ is very nearly impossible; as you too will find when you hear Lily Is a Gunslinger the first time and the subject matter and the ethereal way Thomas deals with it makes your jaw fall open in awe; then there is the ultimate ‘break up song’ One More Chance with the clever and observational Cohenesque chorus:
“I said Hey Baby
Excuse my inability to dance
That I make you cry more than I make you laugh
That the next beer I drink won’t be my last
Oh come on now
Baby give me one more chance.”
But I’m probably going for a song about Ben meeting Paul Newman in a dream. Nope; I’m not telling you any more about it; as it wouldn’t make sense….. it is a dream after all, but it’s a genuine thing of rare beauty and so articulate it should be used in educational programmes!
Ben Folke Thomas certainly won’t be for everyone that’s for sure; but if you like eloquent, often poetic observational songs about the human condition; but from the left of centre (think Cohen, Dylan, Cobain, Olney, Lucinda and probably even Ryan Adams) that make you ‘think’; then you will eventually learn to love this album every bit as much as I have done.
Released November 9th 2018