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Boy Without God | God Bless The Hunger

Album review by John Powell

Boy Without God | God Bless The Hunger

Unlike many of his NYC and other big city singer/songwriter Indie hipster do-it-yourself contemporaries (you know what I’m talking about), Boy Without God doesn’t have a quiet, nasally, or harsh voice. Instead, his baritone is rounded out with traces of soul and blues. Though he started with lo-fi home recordings, a one-man band, he’s moved up in the world of professional recording, and God Bless the Hunger is a delicate album balanced on introspection and poetry. However, with added horns and shimmering guitar riffs, there’s heightened sense of musicality. The arrangements and musical breakdowns are both interesting and complementary to his sometimes obscure but always sincere lyrics.

He gives no quarter, starting the album with “Of Cowboys and Other Beautiful Men”, where he lists all the things he could be. “If I was a broken record/I’d play the same two chords forever,” he sings, just before the horns come in, loose. “Everyone’s a hero/ I know,” he adds before a minor chord and, “If I was a better man/I’d love you like you deserve.” Strings blend with the horns and the drums frolic as the song grows into a musical overture. Lyrically, it’s one of the prettiest songs on the album and one of the prettiest songs I’ve heard in a while. It’s difficult to come up with something unique, after all, but Boy Without God clearly allowed his muses to haunt him for a while.

Take “Can’t Concentrate”, with Belle and Sebastien guitar and trumpet, except BWG’s voice sounds like a large-bellied priest in the south, especially when he coos “Woah-oh- oh.” Something about his voice gives him a bit of sarcastic sincerity, like he’s playing with his insecurity because it makes it easier to sing about it. Unlike the shortest track (3:31), “Can’t Concentrate” is a seven-minute opus, all the while resting on the slow guitar and trumpet. “I’ve got no choice but to be truthful with you,” he sings, as if stating the contents of the album in one line.

A key track is “City Kids”, driven by propulsive drums, harmony vocals, and one of BWG’s better melodies. Female backing vocals and ever-evolving instrumentation makes the song like honey, both sweet and sticky. “Whisper sweet old songs to guy and gals,” he sings, telling the story of these youngsters acting like “city kids.” It’s the pop-iest he’ll get on these ten tracks.

“Only Sweetness” is another pretty tune, this time centered on strings and lightly fingerpicked acoustic guitar. “I saw it all in slow motion,” he begins. “I wandered home alone/made up my morning bed.” Cello purrs and even when the strings hit a slightly dissonant moment of anger, he reigns it in for a pretty finish.

If there’s one weak point it’s the 10-minute title track, starting strong. Rockabilly guitar and steady kick drum wanders in. “We’re just two bodies in a room/in a city/in a country/ in a song,” BWG offers, matter-of-factly. The lyrics are great, simply wonderful. The problem is that his voice is crackly in what sounds like an over-driven microphone, and the harsh part comes three minutes and 20 seconds in, when the band decides to flutter, whine, whirl, and soar off into an inedible porridge of dissonance. Once BWG starts screaming, “God bless the hunger!” repeatedly, it’s just a bit too much. It dilutes an otherwise great song.

But for this genre, Boy Without God has given a unique taste, something a little different that takes a bit of getting used to, (he’s an acquired taste), but his strongest skill is taking the ordinary and tweaking it enough that it sounds fresh.

Bottom line: He might be a Boy Without God, but he’s definitely a Man With a Plan.


 

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