So you’re in a band and you need to distinguish yourself from the glut of other new, guitar toting indie bands. Choose an unusual name firstly – none of this “The…” nonsense. Then embark on a national tour of unusual venues, such as…..hmmm, libraries, perhaps?
That’s what Ben Hudson and his unusually monikered backing band did, and they’re reaping the rewards now. A tour of the nation’s libraries earlier this year guaranteed them press coverage, and their lilting, reggae-ish sound was designed to appeal to all those people who’d bought Lily Allen‘s album over the past year.
So is there any more to Mr Hudson & The Library than a distinctive band name and a good eye for publicity stunts? If A Tale Of Two Cities (an album title in keeping with the band’s literary image) is anything to go by, they’ve also got the songs – commercial without being cheesy and intelligent without being elitist.
Putting their maverick tendencies on the table right from the start, the album opens with a cover version of On The Street Where You Live from the musical My Fair Lady – complete with traffic noises, spaced out keyboard sounds and a dub bass which is prevalent throughout the album.
That they make this most old-fashioned song sound bang up to date is impressive enough, but then they pull off the trick again later on with Everything Happens To Me, the old weepie popularised by Frank Sinatra. Against a backdrop of pouring rain and a tinkly piano, Hudson expertly updates the old standard with mention of email and text messages. balancing self-pity and self-deprecation quite beautifully.
There’s more to the band than carefully chosen cover versions though – Hudson is a fine songwriter in his own right. The single Too Late Too Late has an infectious hook of “why must I always play the clown” which becomes very difficult to shake from the memory, while the gorgeous piano ballad of Picture Of You is possibly the standout track of the album.
Gently strummed acoustic guitars open Bread + Roses before developing into a lovely, summery skank, complete with steel-drums and lyrics with a nicely positive edge (“give blood, make love and don’t think twice”). The blissed out vibes on On The Heath make for a perfect closer, seeing Hudson sat admiring the view with just a bag of mushrooms for company.
Hudson’s voice is strong and expressive, bringing to mind David Bowie at times and a more passionate Tom Chaplin (especially on the sweeping Ghosts) at others. He’s canny enough to have surrounded himself with a top class band as well, especially the talented pianist Torville Jones and the soulful backing vocals of Joy Joseph.
In a world where every other indie band seems to consist of pasty-faced lads with guitars, Mr Hudson & The Library make for a refreshing and eclectic change. There’s not a bad track here, and it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to suggest that they could well become one of the biggest bands of the year. One of the debuts of 2007, for sure.