Gentle Ben and his Sensitive Side - The Beginning of the End

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The missing link between Nick Cave and Pulp.


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This bunch of fellas come from Brisbane, Australia, but don't let that put you off. It's not often that you should get excited about an Australian band, but although these guys don't have the looks (or the arse) of Kylie Minogue they're still worth taking notice of. For starters, Gentle Ben and His Sensitive Side is the coolest band name I've heard in donkeys years. So they get points for that. Secondly, their album is only half an hour long, so it doesn't outstay its welcome. Third and most importantly, their album is excellent. Honestly. It's full of passion, humour and vitality. It makes me smile from ear to ear and it makes me want to dress in a sharp, ill fitting suit, grow a ridiculous quiff and dance round the living room like an uncle at a wedding (ie: badly and with no rhythm). It's that good.


 


The Beginning of the End was released down there in Cork Hat land back in the spring of 2004 or thereabouts and now, thanks to those Wombat lovers over at Undertow Recordings, it's available up here in these sunken lands as well. It's an album that sounds like the missing link between Nick Cave and Pulp. True, that's not an avenue that many bands have ever examined in great detail before, but it's proved to be very fertile ground indeed. Imagine, if you will, what it would be like if Nick Cave spent some time in the sun and smiled every now and again, or if Jarvis and co had kept examining the darker themes of This Is Hardcore and Party Hard instead of writing a final album about Sunrises and Trees and you'll find yourself in Gentle Ben territory. As I'm sure you're now imagining, that's a pretty entertaining place to be.


 


This album is a joy from start to finish. Gentle Ben himself possesses a voice and delivery that's so earnest and ridiculously theatrical you're constantly trying to decide whether he's going to break down and cry or scream at you like a banshee. Invariably he'll do both and often within the same song. He keeps you constantly on edge and that sense of unpredictability is what makes the album so exciting. The tunes themselves are well crafted, with the Sensitive Side developing a series of hop, skip and jump drumbeats surrounded by fuzzy guitars and cool, gentle keyboards. The Beginning of the End is an intoxicating mix of country, pop and cabaret and it works wonderfully. Whether it's the bounciness of the title track or the Latin flavour of I Don't Think She Loves Me (complete with fabulous handclaps) or the Pavement like time changes of Moonlight Sea it all sounds great. Special praise must be given to Don't Wait, which begins with a gentle drum beat and a quiet, broken voice before steadily building into a bizarre sing-a-long chorus that sounds like a forgotten part of the Grease soundtrack. It's hilarious and enthralling at the same time, much like the rest of the album.


 


If this really is the Beginning of the End (and if we're getting good quality music from Down Under then it may just well be) then Gentle Ben and His Sensitive Side are providing us with a decent sending off party. So just clear the living room floor, slick back your hair and go for it. You may never get to be an Uncle at a wedding, after all.


 


Words : Damian Leslie