There are many points of reference within but still nothing that can quite prepare you for the sound of Benjamin Booker. Grimy, Southern punk rock steeped in rhythm and blues. A little Creedence Clearwater Revival meets Muddy Waters, along with that Louisiana drawl all sped up and into something somehow more intimate but no less epic.
The eponymous album's opener, “Violent Shiver”, has been the ultimate teaser track over the last few months. Anticipation for the rest of the album has been nearly unbearable since the single's release. As the title suggests, “Shiver” delivers an instant chill up the spine. The train chugs along at full speed with the wonderful “Always Waiting”. “Slow Coming” is a mostly stripped down affair, with organs taking a greater position. Booker's voice is adaptable as it translates just as affecting in the up-tempo tracks as the more deliberate numbers. He even breaks out an arresting hushed vocal in “I Thought I Heard You Scream”. The pace picks back up again with the astounding “Wicked Waters” and “Have You Seen My Son”. Booker croons along and even screams a bit. He uses starts and stops to maximum dramatic result.
A microcosm of the entire record rests inside the just over three minutes of “Spoon Out My Eyeballs”. The song starts off slow and soulful, then seems to end until Booker pops back in with a quick onslaught of machine gun riffing outro. “Kids Never Growing Older” expands on that with the good old quiet-loud-quiet-dynamic. “By the Evening” lulls you in and then comes on like a tidal wave. These three tracks are the finest example of what Booker is offering. Never too loud, never too soft, the record is always right on point. It raises the hair on your arms, spikes your heart with adrenaline, and then threatens to rip it out. Benjamin Booker has given us the most exciting and fresh debut album in years.
“Benjamin Booker” is in stores today from ATO Records. After an appearance at this year's Lollapalooza, Booker will return to Chicago on Sep 27 at Schubas.