New band, careening rock
Ben Harper’s casual fans may ponder the distinction between Relentless7 and the Innocent Criminals. The difference, as it turns out, is velocity. Oddly enough, it took the departure of better-known guns like Mike Ward (ex-Wallflowers) and Marc Ford (ex-Black Crowes) for Ben Harper to make one of his most guitar-focused albums, and old friend Jason Mozersky throws it down admirably alongside him. On songs like “Fly One Time,” a new pop sensibility seems to engage in a tug of war with the insistent but dissonant guitars, and a tempo-thwarting solo on “Why Must You Always Dress in Black” counterbalances a busy but totally shaking-it bass line. While there’s a pulsing energy to the lush and accomplished performances here, at heart, much of the album lacks the heft of Harper’s earlier milestones, such as Fight for Your Mind. The chops are there but not always the songs. Still, it’s a committed rock album and, generally, a fun one—excellent fuel for the summer festival dates Harper has booked.
Listen to Ben Harper on MySpace.