Ben Esser's 23, hailing from Essex has a Flock of Seagulls hairdo and an acent that sounds like he should be wearing Fred Perry. So it may seem somewhat surprising that he's created an album full of pop songs dripping with pedigree influences, twisted up to make a record of serious zeitgeist pop.
Yes, he does sound like Damon Albarn, and yes he freely rips off without caring that you see, but none of this seems to matter, when what he creates feels more relevant and vibrant today than his source material.
Celebratory Leaving Town shows what you can make in your bedroom with some saxophone, ride cymbals and attitude, whereas Braveface wouldn't be out of place on Park Life. Headlock on the other hand, takes Beck's Loser chorus, adds some exaggerated rock drumming, combined with drum 'n' bass to create a comical, smile-slapping ditty about someone's desperate drowning in ill-advised love.
Lyrically Esser's a refreshing world away from the gloating small-minded Lily Allen who some may set in the same home-made stable. With a wry self-awareness he captures the humorous, the regretful and the plain humiliating characteristics of the timeless ill-fated love affair.
Bones asks the plaintive question, ''Why do we keep on digging up Bones?'', describing the flogging of a dead horse relationship, and I Love You, has the hypnotic, robotic backing vocals driven by some unapologetically old school rock drumming.
Hopeful and hooky We Can Work It Out, with its space invader intro and vocodered chorus takes up where Just Jack's I Talk Too Much left off. And credit goes to whoever decided to throw some Rachmaninoff in the piano introduction of Satisfied, before evolving into a Greek traditional dance style.
Molokoesque Stop Dancing seems to understand the healing qualities of dancing when experiencing existential depression, underpinned by a New Order style bass line.
The one and single flaw would be there are slightly too many la-la-las punctuating too many songs a la Graham Coxon. But it would be miserable to chide when there's so much goodness here; a cohesive album of highly structured pop, some genuine lyrical insight, and enough hooks to get caught up on, again and again. --Lucy Davies
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