As a dedicated follower of fashion (please appreciate this musical reference) and all round terminal sufferer of what we in the biz call ‘FOMO’, this week’s Bucket Tracklist entry is none other than Benjamin Clementine’s At Least For Now. Unless you’ve had your head in a soundproof hole this week, you may have heard a bit about Clementine’s Mercury Award win. You may have even have heard me discussing it briefly on the PearShaped Radio show (I’m nothing if not original), where I rated it a four point something pears.
Apparently defined in the Avant Garde genre, Clementine’s songs are more like short dramas set to music, although he avoids the melodramatic musical theatre-esque pieces, mainly because of his deep, raw voice. His songs are emotional, that much is obvious, although they go further than, for example, Queen of the Tearjerker Adele, coming about the emotion from a completely different place. Perhaps this is because while Adele’s songs are touching without trying to break the mold, Clementine is all about pushing the boundaries of his music. Sometimes he seems almost frantic, with a racing piano and heavy bassline. Sometimes he’s slow and calculated which – in addition to his raw voice – only heightens emotional response.
With his lyrics, too, he’s original, one line that stuck out for me being “If eating was to show you how much I care I’d probably wear dentures by now”. Some songs are more experimental than others, such as St-Clementine-On-Tea-And-Croissants, which is pretty much just that line over and over again, or Adios, in which he stops to break into speech about Angels that he hears singing to him. He then replicates that ethereal song in a high falsetto before going back to the original melody of the song. With these, I’m not sure if what he’s doing is genius or absurd. Maybe they’re both.
Even if he is bordering on the side of insane rather than inspired, At Least For Now is a really interesting album, and one that I think (I’m not sure if I’m not just impressed with its originality) I really like. I would definitely recommend watching videos of Clementine performing his tracks live; while he spurts his confessional lyrics he still maintains an element of mystery, and his presence is somewhat beguiling. Whether you agree with the Mercury panel or with a commenter on YouTube who thinks we’re “fetishizing” his oddness, I think this is a really impressive album which is definitely one to listen to before you die.