I’ve featured songs from Ben Sommer’s latest album, Super Brain, but a proper review of the entire album is in order. I liked and favorably reviewed Ben’s first album, america’d, and so was disposed to expect another solid effort. And yet, earlier-album familiarity nothwithstanding, Super Brain surprises and impresses, exceeding Sommer’s earlier work.
First, for those who liked america’d, the key difference in Super Brain’s dozen songs: the former album was more political than Sommer’s new one. Where america’d offered commentary on the state of the nation, Super Brain casts a wider glance, including one backward, in topics less uniquely American, but more universal.
There’s still political commentary here (Militarism could not be otherwise), but there’s a broader collection of themes.
There’s no right or wrong in the political or apolitical approach: each has its place.
Still, that’s neither here nor there compared with Super Brain’s deepest strength: this is an impressively and astutely eclectic mix of songs and topics. Ben may be, by his own account, an edgy, prog rock musician, but (it is to be hoped) no one is just one thing, spontaneously generated and waiting at the microphone. Sommer’s clearly isn’t one thing, but is instead a sharp and profoundly knowledgeable musician.
That’s the strength and fun of Super Brain: it’s a tour, making its mark rather than making a particular statement.
How could anyone — anyone not pinched and narrow — not enjoy, for example, I Married a Prostitute? It’s just wonderful, and I’ll not call it a guilty pleasure as it’s simply a pleasure. Melodically and lyrically, it’s a treat.
On this same album, just a few tracks later, one finds Deo Gracias Anglia, previously premiered here at FREE WHITEWATER. That’s an astonishing range for a musician, and evidence that Super Brain’s not just a title, but a description. A quick note about this Sommer’s version of Deo Gracias Anglia – it says much and says much favorably that when Sommers offered a track to premiere at FW, he chose so wisely and fittingly. Behind this eclectic album lies real intuition.
Then, back to the lead track Young Turks, for something unlike either of these two:
Happily and easily recommended —
Adams’s rating, out of four stars: