Let's Be Friends
Edinburgh troubadour has motifs of unity, 'togetherness' and humanisation; folk-tinged and coalescing; bit with a sly wink underneath.
Let's Be Friends is available via
The E.P. Hold Tight is available at
STYLE, personability and imagery, plays a controvertible and vital...
role in music; in the way the public perceives you and your potentiality. I guess this is especially prescient and vital if you are a solo artist. Bands as a whole tend to not spend a great deal of consideration on their projection. As a consequence, it can be a lot harder, on the surface, to differentiate or distinguish them. You often have to listen a great deal to a good few songs, or trawl through interviews, to arrive at conclusions regarding their candescence. Solo artists have a harder life, in all respects. For a start, they are alone; and have to invoke the a comparable impact, but with three or four (or more) fewer people, assisting them. In terms of imagery, there is a lot more focus on personality. With bands, there is less consideration- unless you are a big ticket item. When thinking about your lone star, a far greater relevance is given to this side of them. They have to do all of the talking; have a great scrutiny on their shoulders, and a multitude of media and public eyes, firmly set on their every move. I have somewhat been, um, underwhelmed, shall we say, by the sheer lack of any sort of intrigue, regarding the solo market. There are a lot of popular solo artists on the scene, but very few have any thing worth saying (outside of music), and a greater proportion always have a distinct flaw, that makes them less likeable than you'd hoped. It is understandable I guess, as there is a huge diversity of people in the music industry, and their personality does not differ or improve, when they enter the music business: they are who they are. It just seems that there is so little flamboyance, mystery or star quality, in the modern age. Back in the '60s, '70s and '80s, there was a greater number of artists, whom grabbed your attention. Bob Dylan had his image and mythological fascination; Roy Orbinson was a man of mystery and incredible passion; Morrissey was- and is- a controversial but empathetic idol for the lonely hearts of the world. What do we have now? With the proliferation of social media, and the depersonalisation of music, many of your solo stars are very bland and cloying. Worse still; those characterless names, often have little creative and design intelligence. Any social network page, official website, E.P./album cover and song name, are often predictably homogeneous and unspectacular. To my mind, it is a mandatory primary concern. For all the honing of material and sound, the aspects regarding to packaging are given no credence. I almost bleed from my ears every time I faced with a new solo artist. Their E.P. covers are boring self portraits; their song titles are cliched and drab; their back-story and personality is anodyne and yawning, and it is not a coincidence, that artists whom are guilty of all of these, rarely stick around, and fewer still are remembered. Great male examples, such as Bon Iver show how it should be done- if you are a little introverted and private. His photos, song titles, and interviews are always intriguing, and as a natural consequence, he received a greater adoration, than, say, the likes of Justin Biebers (although he is an entirely different kettle of moronic, cretinous fish). For the girls, I would say Laura Marling strikes a perfect balance. She is alluring in her detachment; gorgeous in her unconventional way, and has a stunning intelligence and savvy business plan. In interviews she comes across as quirky, likeable and gives just the right amount of personal honesty, away. Her tracks, albums, and covers always strike a chord, and even her methods of touring are different and idiosyncratic. These two leaders of their genders, are both very different, but no less vital and electioneering. No one has to lie about themselves, or think too hard to make a comparable impact: you just have to stop doing what every- dull- artist does. When you get this side of things spot-on, subsequently, your music and ambition galvanises, and an appropriate amount of attention and passion comes your way.
I protest and go on for two reasons. One, is that Benny Monteux has all the hallmarks and potential, to be a contemporary curiosity. The other is, that at this stage, little is know about him: cards very much are being clutched to chest. I was made aware of his presence, by his countryman and friend Steve Heron, whom I have featured twice before. Heron has won my over, not just by his music, but by his personality and image. He understands the importance of diversification, originality, and projection of image. His song titles and designs are always fresh, and he comes across as popular, bold and an everyman. He is still in the formative years, but clearly has a concentric quality/quantity coefficient. Having nailed down all the foundations down, he is building upon it, and will not suffer a fall from grace at all: creative and populist mitosis awaits. Similarly, Monteux, is making strides to take a similar road. I'm not sure if it's a Scottish quality, but I am impressed by the finer details and deeper recesses. From communicating with him, he comes across as friendly and relatable, and even in the very years of his career, he has figured that a little thought goes a long way. With regards to his E.P. Hold Tight, the three tracks employ a range of thematic and emotional possibilities, with simple, but effective titles. The E.P. cover is striking and original: great designs, superb colour choices and a staunch and impressive logo, that interests and draws you in, before you hear a single note. As for the man behind the music: I am going by the scents of social media. Twitter states that he is a 21-year-old from Edinburgh; who likes to 'live, laugh, love'. He is a handsome fella, with down-to-Earth looks and fashion. Facebook strips down to the core: a nice stable job, a pleasing- and correct- political and religious affiliation; and an annoyingly gorgeous girlfriend. Is Californian by birth, and resides in the Scottish capital. It is this mixture and cocktail of spirits and essences, that results in an artist whom has all the indelible primary colours painted and dried: expect a steady trajectory, that, through 2013-2014, could see some high-profile bookings and prophecy.
To the music itself then. For a talent whom prefers that his songs tell you all you need to know, they are impressively strong and mature, for someone barely in their 20s. The other two tracks on the set- Hold Tight, and Shackles- provide moods, well-plotted stories and cohabitation unity: the result of which is a cohesive, brief and tantalising slice of folk-tinged pop music. The E.P.'s centre-piece, in terms of location and quality, is Let's Be Friends. Its title creates images of child-like innocence and harmony; there- in my mind- is a reference to a line in a White Stripes song (Let's Shake Hands): although it is less rampant and forceful (especially considering the live approximation borders on the plain creepy). There are loose and sprightly stings of guitar to be heard, at first. Before I continue, it is not just Monteux in the mix. Like Jeff Buckley and Patrick Watson there is a band behind the man. Calum Craig, Craig Coutts and Marc Zwetsloot, provide bass, guitars and drums, accordingly. They provide amplification and emotional reverberation: crackles and strums that whips up an acoustic bow wave. The intro provides some counter-intuitive punches: You would expect an intro. similar to that of Hold Tight, to be heard here too. It is an original and unique parable; maybe an essence of The Housemartins and The Smiths and '80s indie glory: in the best possible sense. Many bands and solo acts tend to go for linear strum and unemotive lines; Monteux manifests amplitude and augmentation with simplicity; when the rest of the band join the fray, and the intro. transmogrifies into a headier rush. The wind-swept and summery electric strings, elicit a springing step, before the vocal enters. Monteux has a unparalleled and incomparable vocal tone: there is a clear native accent in his voice; and mixed with a slight U.S. West Coast edge, results in an interesting sound. There are scenes of intoxication and uncertainty in the streets: "It's not a crime/Not to think", it is said, on a "night like this". The way that the band playful intersect and converse reminds me a bit of They Might Be Giants and REM: there is that same sort of Georgia-via-New York-by-Massachusetts sonic itinerary. As well, there are hints of Scotland: a Proclaimers-style acoustic harmony and unencumbered vocal ellict; Deacon Blue-esque talent for melody and memorability, as well as a Steve Heron-cum-Biffy Clyro elementary mix of modern-life reality and distilled novellas on love, and its instability. When Monteux sings: "Honestly my darling/I have no fear"; there is a curious sound of the '90s. In the way that bands such as Dodgy, Cast, The Auteurs and The Levellers infused fun and mystique into common themes, Monteux has the reverence and qualitative passion of those bands, yet able to (through wordless vocals and elongation and unique annotation) avoid any comparisons with regards to his voice. The band have a loose sense of fun, yet are a tight-knit group, whom bolster our protagonist and elevate a great energy, yet are never imposing or wandering. The chorus, which contains "Let's be friends/Until the morning"; has a lasciviousness and lack of innocence to its tail. The jollity and refreshing breeze and passion of the music, is juxtaposed by the themes and words, which recall one-night stands and machismo alike. It is an unusual and effective blend: your mind is caught up, trying to catch up with the smile on your face, before your brain realises what is being sung; when you do picture what our hero is talking about, your conscience and liberal mindsets negate and nullify this. But before you can decide upon an appropriate response, the boys unleash outpourings of uplifting melody; with our front-man telling tales of a boy knocking on his door; neglecting the fact that "(But) the joke's on him/'cause he's never been here before". Whether there are ambitions for long-term romance, behind the chorus' protestations, is unsure: I suspect that there are more temporary intentions. It is the way that the light-hearted composition and spirited vocals (with its modern pop aesthete), plays off of the slightly grittier and sharper edges, gives the song a unique appeal. The likes of Arctic Monkeys write plenty of songs, with scenes of ill-fated romantic entanglement; unusual characters, and less-than-sincere messages: but there is a caustic and acid-tongued lashing, and musical savagery in most of the notes. Monteux and the gang marry varying shades, to achieve a more endeavouring whole.
Monteux has ideals of romance and passion, yet has a wit and human edge, that does not wrap everything up in bubblegum and purity: he is a romantic at heart, but writes songs filled with modern relevance and relatability, and ties them with compositions that are varying, contrasting and positive. It is this combination, as well as the key components regarding imagery, personality and originality, that will ensure a firm foothold in the future. As it stands- in 2013- there are few solo artists or bands as a whole, whom are doing a hell of a lot different at the moment. Many are lesser approximations of existing acts; quite a few are only semi-interesting, and a great deal are vague and undefined. It is the likes of Monteux, Heron and a lot of the northern clutch of artists, that are redefining pages of music, that are in danger of being relegated to obscurity. As there is an exhaustive and unregulated mass of musical participants, burgeoning onto the scene, it is vitally important, as the days go on, that something unique and diverse is created: far too many suffer from a naivety and self-importance that condemns them to a short creative life. Whether there is an album imminent from Monteux, I am not sure. On the evidence of the 3-track E.P., and the feedback from social media followers, and fans alike, I am sure there is a salivating demand. If he holds his creative nerve, and carries along the same paths; introducing new avenues and themes into the mix, he is sure to hit gold. Scotland is producing a small number of rather fascinating artists, and I am sure far more similarly-ambitious bands and acts are waiting to be unearthed. With the lack of unexpectedness in a lot of music genres, and predictable transitoriness, I hope that Monteux is prepared to settle in for a long stay. Because very few...
HAVE the gravity for longevity that he possess.