Benjamin Shaw is an outcast, a loner, a maverick and a freak.
All of these are compliments. Born in Blackpool, the songwriter’s outsider stance allows him to wrap his savage wit around the most complex of topics. Releasing a series of one off singles and EPs, Benjamin Shaw gradually built a reputation for being an artist who followed his own – very singular – vision.
‘There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet’ was recorded earlier this year. A series of probing, acerbic, surreal songwriter vignettes Benjamin Shaw lacks almost any parallel.
A Northern wit cut from the same cloth which spawned Mark E Smith and John Shuttleworth, Benjamin Shaw is capable of conjuring couplets such as “shouldn’t blame it on the Tories, even if they’re vile and you shouldn’t fill their lungs with water just to make me smile.”
Sitting somewhere between showgaze, art rock and classic songwriting ‘There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet’ is an unusual yet infectious debut which is difficult to shrug off. Intrigued, ClashMusic invited Benjamin Shaw to pen a track-by-track guide to his debut album.
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There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet
Here we have the opening song of the album. The introduction. The prologue. The lazy and cynical last ditch attempt to create some semblance of cohesion. Those with a keen eye will notice that it has the same title as the album. This was not a coincidence. Onwards!
How to Test the Depth of a Well
Sometimes, when you aren’t very good at coming up with accomplished ideas, you have to rely on cheap and vacant one liners. Like a modern day David Cameron, I have leapt without shame into this concept. A clever pun here, a razor sharp social comment there, I am the best. I am also so tired and miserable I want to throw up. I sometimes think this song should be called “How to Test the Depth of Your Audience’s Patience”.
A true story. I really did have an interview tomorrow, and I really did want to step into oncoming traffic. After years of trying, this is probably the closest I have come to properly ripping off that early Sparklehorse sound, which I hope will finally put this obsession to one side for a while. For the record, I did get the job, and it was horrible.
Somewhere Over the M6
As with most of the songs on this stupid album, this one was a real pain to put together. With so many samples and loops, I definitely had ideas above my lowly station. I honestly wanted this album to sound as ‘nice’, beautiful and un-lo-fi as I could get it, but I soon found out that I was less Brian Wilson, and more Brian Paddick. Maybe not such a bad thing though.
An Exciting Opportunity
An interlude. Every album should have one.
Hey, Where’s My Deputy?
I like this one. If anything, the previous interlude was created specifically to lead straight into this, written in the same key and everything – ‘D’. With themes of fear, cattle and domestic paranoia, we have here a badly recorded racket, including the real sound of a hoover. Who would live in a house like this?
I recently went on tour for two weeks in Europe. I don’t even like playing live, so to think that this would be a good idea was, in hindsight, not a good idea. Despite bringing along a rucksack full of asthma and sinus medications, and secretly drinking more of a Belgian man’s whisky than I should have, I still ended having to share a bed with a Canadian man at least three times. The tour culminated in a show in Rotterdam where only one person turned up. An elderly lady, almost certainly quite confused. This song isn’t about that, but I tell people it is.
The Birds Chirp and the Sun Shines
After the rather oppressive nature of the previous half an hour, I think this song is a little bit of light relief. Obviously, I get that revolving a song around despair and plots of murdering your work colleagues is not often seen as light relief, but to me it actually is. The hope to which the album title refers. The light at the end of my tunnel.
As I have been writing this tonight, I have been watching endless repeats of Grand Designs. I don’t even know why. Perhaps to disassociate myself from the fact that it is Monday tomorrow, or to punish myself for my lack of productiveness this weekend, or maybe just because my wife is watching them and there is nowhere else to sit in the flat. Either way, sometimes I wish I could just turn green and smash the place up. And here’s where we end. We even have a suitable ‘atmospheric’ fade out. ….. .
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‘There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet’ is out on November 21st.