The new record from Montero, Performer, out Friday via Chapter Music, is the sort of thing that is going to get labeled glam rock or something but the music here is far more intricate and complex than that label would otherwise indicate. What's here on Performer is beautiful and trippy in the manner of the best songs from The Flaming Lips and MGMT.
Other reviewers will likely highlight the presence of Jay Watson from Tame Impala on parts of this, or the fact that the record was recorded at Mark Ronson's studio, despite this really being the work of just one man: Ben Montero. That Ben has managed to create an album so distinctly otherworldly and defiantly tuneful is something to be praised as, given the glammy aspects of what's here, it could easily have turned into a project that was too kitschy and precious.
A lush number like "Caught Up In My Own World" is a real headphone epic, while "Vibrations" sounds decidedly like both John Lennon circa Walls and Bridges and that second album from Temples. The cut rises easily about its considerable inspiration points to stand on its own as something really original, and certainly a bit more tuneful than the music of the much-lauded Foxygen. Elsewhere, the elegant "Aloha" nods however slightly in the direction of acts indebted to both progressive rock and those intent on charting new courses in the post-rock landscape. There is a slight sameness here as the numbers pile on the same sort of ascending chord structures in each track, the effect very much like listening to Jeff Lynne run up his keyboard in search of the big hooks for those songs he composed for the Xanadu soundtrack. And if something like "Tokin' The Night Away" feels decidedly slight, it's at least wildly tuneful and pleasing to the ear. Ben Montero has mastered this sort of thing and deserves far more praise than those guys in Foxygen, in my opinion, but he desperately needs to expand his sonic attack a bit as he probably can't survive simply on the strength of his big melodies forever.
[Photo: Maria Damkalidi]