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Ben Davis and the Jetts / Des Ark

Battle of the Beards

(Lovitt; US: 20 Feb 2007; UK: Unavailable)

Ben Davis and the Jetts play the first half of this album with churning, drum-heavy rock that is pretty solid.  “Election Protection” is the strongest track, rising above the rest with the most recognizable melody.  The other songs resist being too catchy, or rocking too hard.  Many of Davis’s older tunes get better treatment in a live setting, and perhaps that’s the case here.  The production makes these songs feel a little hemmed in.  Still, make no mistake, Davis and Co. start off the record right.  Des Ark (a.k.a. Aimee Argote)‘s songs have very lengthy and misleadingly funny titles.  Her music is dark and emotive, her voice somewhere between Chan Marshall’s breath and Joanna Newsom’s curl.  Her first song, “Eloise”, is a quiet acoustic ballad and the best of her set.  It is when Ben Davis and Des Ark get together for the last two tracks that it becomes clear what Argote needs.  Anchored by the Jetts, Argote’s voice shines and the songs pop, picking up the plodding nature of the Des Ark tunes.  Together, Davis and Des Ark might craft a compelling album; perhaps that is the next step.

Rating:

Matthew Fiander is a music critic for PopMatters and Prefix Magazine. He also writes fiction and his work has appeared in The Yalobusha Review. He received his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from UNC-Greensboro and currently teaches writing and literature at High Point University in High Point, NC. You can follow him on Twitter at @mattfiander.


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