BENEFITS OF BEING PARANOID – Midnight Grass
Benefits of Being Paranoid bring a distinctive quality to their brand of jam music. Instrumentally, they are built around the acoustic guitar of Sam Wurz (also the vocalist), making for an appealing, organic, mellow brand of jam rock that has strong folk leanings. These elements are more pronounced on this, their second album, than on their highly praised debut Hello Noiro from 2004. Like the debut album, Midnight Grass was recorded at Smart Studios. This time the band employed engineer Justin Perkins and he makes his presence felt, as the sound is more dense and ethereal. The vocals are less bright and the snare is meatier, which seems appropriate given the music’s somber leanings.
Lyrically, the band can be a bit murky, though in poetic manner, and getting to the root of what they are expressing may take some effort. This may be exactly the point, however, as introspection seems to be the key ingredient, along with frequent references to a shadowy “she,” the brain (hemisphere), memories and dying, indicating that there is a dose of loss and cosmic doubt at the heart of the lyrics.
Lacking a keyboardist, BOBP’s music follows a very similar formula from track to track in terms of arrangements, so at sixty-five minutes things can get a bit repetitive. “Wrestling the Rhino” and “In Between Those Lines” both start with an almost identical acoustic-guitar riff, even in the same key. While every track sounds good, no one song jumps out as being extraordinary, though “Wrestling…” comes close. The band exposes a heartland-America vein, sounding downright Springsteen-ian on “Living History” – the dark lyrics reflect on the shotgun deaths of Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson – and an awful lot like the BoDeans in other spots. This is not to say that BOBP lacks its own identity. Wurtz’s vocal delivery is so achingly and passionately delivered that ownership of these songs get assigned to him by default. The rest of the band, as if sensing this to be the case, falls (fittingly) into a strong supporting role. For example, Marc Hoernke’s lead guitar is used sparingly. He stretches out a bit on “In Between the Lines” but more often uses effects and tasteful embellishments to augment the atmospheric quality of BOBP’s music, keeping the focus squarely on the songs.
There is an overarching element of beauty running through Midnight Grass that grows with repeated listenings, leaving little doubt that BOBP is interested in making strong artistic statements with their albums. The band is suited for focused listening and as such make a more personal statement with their fans, one that takes a little longer to digest but is ultimately more satisfying.