Categorized | Album Reviews

Special Benny – Toys

Posted on 23 September 2010 by Joe

There are so many influences on Toys, the unusual and eclectic debut album by UK six piece Special Benny, that it’s hard to know where to start describing the music.

Largely instrumental, the album is at times prog rock, at others reminiscent of heavy metal funsters  Fang Island, even Frank Zappa in places. Maths rock, whatever that may be, also makes an appearance, then there’s a bit of folk and at times some Field Music. I was even reminded of 1980s US hardcore punk/funk outfit Tar Babies at one point. You can see my problem.

The question I am left pondering as I reel off these influences is that with all its intricate musicianship, odd song construction and eclectic nature is Toys a mess or a masterpiece?  In a strange way this crazy hotch-potch of music works really well, all the influences come together nicely and all nine tracks are clearly worked out, despite the chaos of their musical juggling.

Special Benny - Toys

The keeping of vocals to a minimum, as Fang Island did on their debut earlier this year, also works well, except on track six, ‘Inspector Sands’. This discordant, jittery, almost King Crimson-esque track is the one that fans of Field Music are going to love. The only difference is that Field Music pull off this kind of interesting music with lyrics as well. It’s a shame, musically it is the best on the album, but with lyrics it could have been even better and one of the best tracks of the year.

Other instrumentals do work far better. Take ‘Children Are Cruel’ for example. Delayed guitar heart-beating it’s way across the intro gradually builds up into full out saxophone laced rock tune, all with the sound of children in the background. Its powerful music indeed.

Among other favourites are the meandering, funk-ish, cosmopolitan sounding ‘Croydon,’ which sounds far more interesting than the drab, concrete mess of a London suburb it is named after.

Special Benny, who have been going on and off for around four years, have delivered a remarkably interesting and powerful debut album that will delight those that also like the rock fun of Fang Island and the musicality of Field Music.

8/10

by Joe Lepper

Toys is released  by the Proper Songs label. More information here.

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