Arts & Events

Kenney’s album solid but not inspired

Oct. 1 saw the release of Ben Kenney’s album Burn The Tapes, a classic rock album featuring 10 tracks of guitars, drums and vocals. Kenney, known primarily as the bass player for the Grammy—nominated rock band Incubus, has branched out to partake in both instrumental and vocal work in this fourth solo album.

Burn The Tapes, while not particularly unique or groundbreaking, has its points of interest.

Kenney’s vocals, surprisingly high and light, provide a stark contrast against the guitar- and drum-heavy instrumentals. While at times the contrast produced by his falsetto is refreshing, the vocals suffer from poor sound mixing and are often overwhelmed by instruments when the lyrics should be soaring above them.

And of course, one can never quite forget that Kenney is not primarily a singer. While able to hold a note, Kenney’s vocals occasionally suffer from inexperience and an apparent lack of confidence. While his singing voice is unique, the power of the instruments deserves supporting vocals of equal strength.

The lyrics themselves are neither poor nor extraordinary. The album sees a few cringe-worthy moments in lines such as the simplicity of “We almost died / But we still survive,” or the amateur rapper-esque “I may be uptight but you ain’t no piece of cake / I’m probably acting a fool but you won’t relax your face.” However, the lyrics are largely inoffensive. Burn The Tapes is clearly not about the vocals, and the lyrics, like Kenney’s singing, often go unnoticed when opposed to heavy guitar riffs and drumbeats.

Burn The Tapes features some startlingly great musical moments during instrumental portions of the songs. One such moment occurs partway through the album’s first track, “Beard of Bees.” Moments like these remind the listener that Kenney is among the contemporary greats of rock music.

The album’s first single, “Worlds Collide,” is undeniably good and features better musicality and sound mixing than the rest of the work. Except for one very awkward moment at the conclusion of the song when Kenney attempts some trills, his vocals shine in “Worlds Collide” with a strength otherwise unseen in his work on other songs. One wonders why the rest of the album doesn’t live up to the same standard.

The album features little variability between songs, with the consistent presence of heavy drums, heavy guitar and Kenney’s tenor voice wavering in the background.

There is an undeniable nostalgia factor in listening to Burn The Tapes. The straightforward guitar/drums/vocals combination has a timeless appeal, and while Kenney’s singing voice is unique, this alone doesn’t detract from the classic rock feel that the album clearly aims for. While nothing new, Burn The Tapes taps into a classically popular genre that remains widely liked.

Consumers won’t miss anything new or exciting if they avoid Burn The Tapes, however, fans of straightforward rock music will enjoy Kenney’s work and should look into obtaining the album, or its single “Worlds Collide.”