Beta Male Fairytales

Ben's Brother

Relentless, 2008

REVIEW BY: Paul King


So, just who are Ben’s Brother? Well, if you believe the press releases, they’re a five-piece band fronted by songwriter and vocalist Jamie Hartman. The band’s name is derived from the fact that Jamie always felt as if he lived in the shadow of his big brother Ben and thus, regarded himself as something of a beta male in the family – hence the title of the band’s debut album.

Me? I’m the suspicious sort. I think that Ben’s Brother have the unmistakable air of a contrived outfit. Any interview or article I’ve ever read about the band seemed to focus exclusively on Jamie Hartman alone and the “thank you” credits on this album are all written in the first person, as if there’s only actually one member of the band wanting to thank anybody.

The fact that Hartman had previously established himself as a writer of advertising jingles and hit songs for the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, Lemar and Will Young before his tenure in Ben’s Brother, only serves to convince me further that the other members of this band are nothing more than hired hands. Not that Jamie Hartman is the first artist to ensconce himself in an imaginary band; Mick Hucknall has been fronting a band called Simply Red for years, when in reality, Simply Red is just Hucknall’s solo-vehicle. Of course, all this speculation is largely irrelevant in the context of reviewing the band’s debut album but I just wanted to bring my misgivings to your attention, dear readers.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Beta Male Fairytales was originally released in August of 2007 but since then, the band’s song “Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)” has been used in a commercial for Dentyne Ice in Canada and the U.S. This has generated a lot of interest in Ben’s Brother and a high demand for the song itself. Since that track wasn’t initially included on the Beta Male Fairytales album, the band’s record label has decided to re-release the album on May 12th with “Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)” included.

The music on the album is all very much in the radio-friendly James Blunt/David Gray style of confessional adult pop and would doubtless make the perfect accompaniment to that dinner party you really don’t want to attend. Hartman’s earthy voice, perhaps the album’s saving grace, has a warm, rasping quality that vaguely recalls Rod Stewart or perhaps The Stereophonics’ Kelly Jones.

High points include the single “Rise” as well as the gently pensive power ballad “Let Me Out,” which appears to be a love-letter of sorts to a long term romantic partner who’s breaking the singer’s heart. As for the newly added bonus track “Stuttering (Kiss Me Again)”; it’s a song that takes the speech-impediment-laden vocals of The Who’s “My Generation” to extremes, while bringing a more direct, rock orientated sound to the album.

The songwriting here is all undeniably slick (as you would expect from someone of Hartman’s experience) but an awful lot of the songs fail to really make any sort of emotional connection with the listener. Don’t misunderstand me, Beta Male Fairytales isn’t a bad album by any means; the musicianship, crisp production and obvious songwriting ability of Jamie Hartman serve to make this a quality production from start to finish. It’s just that there seems to be a lack of real passion and consequently the album tends to meander by instead of grabbing the listener.

I guess ultimately it depends on what you’re looking for in an album. If you want powerfully moving music, sung with dedication and conviction, you’re not going to find it here. If, however, you’re looking for a collection of pleasantly crafted, confessional love songs to play in the background, then Beta Male Fairytales might just be your thing.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2008 Paul King and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Relentless, and is used for informational purposes only.