Band: Ben Tan
Release: July 2013
Link To Listen: http://bentan.bandcamp.com/album/inside-out
1. “Come Out”
3. Inside Out”
4. “Upper Lower Middle Class Blues”
5. “Dance The Night Away”
6. “I Will Follow You”
8. “Half A World Away”
Comments: The road to Ben Tan’s debut release Inside Out is a fascinating road. One could argue that the multi-instrumentalist and acclaimed former Emerson College radio host was born a musical virtuoso. I’m not quite sure anyone expected this kind of output from him, though. He had long been a piano man before picking up the guitar and all other such instruments. That he somehow wound up playing keys in a psychedelic rock ‘n roll band (Moontowers) is still a tidbit mind-blowing. At any rate, Tan has played in bands since before his voice cracked. That’s all well and good, but I felt there was always so much unrealized potential. “When’s the Ben Tan solo album coming?” Some years later, here we are. While I’d never expect the dude to include Magic Kids, High Places, and The Lost Sounds on a list of ‘influences’, Ben Tan’s home recordings (with the help of more than a handful of conspirators) are odd enough that it wouldn’t be totally random to think the dude is more informed by the past two decades of underground rock ‘n roll than the real legends Tan adores. ANYWAY.
Inside Out starts out with “Come Out,” which immediately strikes me as one of the finest songs I’ve heard this year. It is totally POP. Multi-track vocals, check. Brian Wilson, check. This song and the next one “Marielle,” are light numbers, playful and straying from complication. The kind of stuff that the Malt Shop Memories minded youth of today (where are you people?) long desire. Tan goes into softer rock mode for “Inside Out,” with unbelievably strong background vocals. Witty lyrics (sup, Bob Dylan) reign on “Upper Lower Middle Class Blues,” some coming out of the mouth of the man himself, others via vocalist Holly Dalton. This one (along with the haunting, thousand word per minute, no-fi “Singulair”) is one of the oldest songs in Tan’s repertoire. Not my favorite stuff on here when stacked next to stuff like the retro-fitted “Dance the Night Away”; piano bar musicians ought to fear for their jobs with this original nugget. Girl groups of the past ought to blush. Okay so if I venture into superlatives, the “most psychedelic” song award goes to “I Will Follow You,” a sublime experience that doesn’t overstay its heady, nearly six minute existence. On the grand finale, “Half A World Away,” we get to hear Tan hit some crazy notes. Genuine Beach Boys worship.
Inside Out hits the spot as far as rock ‘n roll with bursting pop sensibility go. Originality isn’t so much the star on this one as it is Tan’s ability to work in and around walls of sound that long have had lasting power. Stuff like this ought to be more widely appreciated.