Benjamin Clementine – I Tell A Fly
Jazz | Avant Garde | Classical
Benjamin Clementine is not an artist for the faint of heart. He’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying he’s unique. His Mercury Prize winning debut is an acquired taste, but after a few listens his genius shines through. His exquisitely refined piano, his poignant and scattershot lyricism, and his dark soaring vocals leave him entirely incomparable, in a complete league of his own. I Tell A Fly seems to take a step back from many of those aspects that made him great, and instead focusses on a more avant garde approach. The record intersperses his elegant piano work with moments of sheer madness. Closing track ‘Ave Dreamer’ begins with what sounds like a medieval bard, ‘One Awkward Fish’ combines electronic beats with creepy harpsichord, while album centrepiece ‘Phantom of Aleppoville’ shifts between segments like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’s demented and less whimsical cousin.
Though you have to dig even deeper with this record, and give it plenty of listens to sink in, when you eventually hit upon those moments of brilliance they are worth the wait. ‘God Save The Jungle’ features one of Benjamin’s finest vocal performances in its latter half, and album highlight ‘Quintessence’ strips it back to just him and the piano to show him at his best. I’m all for artists experimenting and exploring new ideas, but in this instance Clementine has strayed a little too far from the style that won him his acclaim. I Tell A Fly as a whole does not play to his strengths. It’s a misstep, as so often happens for second albums, but nothing major so long as he finds his way back to his roots a little further down the line.