When your favorite bands are on hiatus or enduring the long process of recording new material for their clamoring fans, it’s always a special treat when band members help hold us over with solo/side projects. Because we are often fickle and insatiable, which means if musicians don’t keep pandering to our interests, we’ll move on to somebody else.
Of course, I kid, because I can honestly say I continue to eagerly await the release of Vuvuzela’s debut EP, which I helped Kickstart last summer. I don’t mind waiting, and if I am excited about something, I won’t ever forget that I’m waiting for it. However, it was still a great pleasure when I learned that Vuvuzela‘s lead singer Josh Benash swooped in with a full-length solo album in the meantime. Benash, of course, is also the intense screaming face of New York ensemble Kiss Kiss. In other words, the guy’s got a solid track record, so it’s no surprise that his solo album is premium stock.
At the risk of sounding cliché, The Dismal; The Beautiful is an expansive journey through sound. The deep sense of melancholy permeating most of the tracks is delivered with radiant, spacey tones primed for catharsis.
Dreamy synths set the flow in opener “Sick of the Wreck,” and Benash brings in a little piano waltz for “The Bodies of Trees.” The album takes a more melodic turn on “My Little Noose,” contrasted by its depressing subject matter: “So much for a life, ’cause she’s the sun that shines, and I’d rather have a fight than be alone tonight.” Then the album takes a peculiar detour simply called “The Pancake Song.” It’s less a song and more a Zappa-esque dialogue of nonsense that has made me laugh each time of repeated listens.
The journey continues deeper into The Dismal; The Beautiful, which travels from delicate grace to swelling chorals to sweet chaos, and back around again. Benash also sends his vocals in many different directions, drawing out phrases with smooth, long notes or wrapping them up in harsh snarls. “Swarm” sounds like a feverish battle as various percussion sounds go frantic at once; “Asshole” bookends itself with lo-fi, clowny synths, saving every other verse for Benash’s aching wails.