Ben Harper & Relentless7: “White Lies For Dark Times”

Best. Bandname. Ever. Am I right?

Despite the rapid onset of exams and essays and crushing amounts of impending failure, I’ve managed to write another review instead of doing any study. And it’s of Ben Harper’s new album. Of which I say things like this:

Band names, eh? There’s rarely an in-between with them: they either sound exactly right, or absolutely ridiculous. Try saying any death metal band name with a straight face in polite company, and you’ll have an idea of what I mean with the latter. When your grandma asks you what you’re doing this weekend, and you say you’re going to see “The Spectacular DeathChrist Revue”, things fall on the wrong side of ludicrous. Of course, most of the band names we accept as being perfect are perfect because we’re so goddamn used to them: The Rolling Stones, Guns n’ Roses, The Intractable Rhino… The repitition makes them seem far more palatable than they probably were during the pitching phase. “Hey guys, how about Soundgarden?” It probably wasn’t immediately seized upon as the ultimate in bandnames. Because it’s slightly rubbish.

So it’s with an odd feeling of inconsequential surprise that I find Ben Harper’s new backing group has a name that immediately feels right on some deep level: Relentless7 – there’s a pleasing assonance and sibilance to it, for one thing. But as soon as “Number With No Name” kicks in, you realise that the name is perfectly suited to the band’s sound: dirty, greased-up, murky blues, giving a rock solid foundation to Harper’s impassioned vocals, and his renowned virtuosity with an overdriven lapsteel. If 2007’s Lifeline showcased Harper’s songwriting chops, this record is all about demonstrating his hair-down, arms-aloft jam-out tendencies, and Relentless7 do a wonderful job of both indulging and elevating Harper’s self-proclaimed “unapologetic rock”.

That was probably worth failing third year for, right?

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