Mr Ben and the Bens 'Who Knows Jenny Jones' LP
Mr Ben and The Bens is the brainchild of polymath musician Ben Hall. The record is an experimental pop exploration of a kitchen sink narrative with a celestial twist. Originating from Lancaster’s thriving co-operative DIY scene, Ben is now based in Sheffield and his adopted city has had a profound influence on the concept of the new album.
With Who Knows Jenny Jones, he tells the tale of a shrinking violet called Jenny from Sheffield who gets abducted by aliens and becomes the best disco dancer in town. MBatB have been touring and releasing records since 2017. In a short space of time, he has been embraced by BBC 6 Music’s Marc Riley and played with Lancaster hometown DIY legends The Lovely Eggs, as well as indie guitar pop masters The Wave Pictures.
For the new album, Ben played all the instruments himself in his tiny room in Sheffield. He branches away from his lo-fi acoustic folk roots to embrace more electronic territory, exploring a new sonic palette whilst still occupying the signature world of MBatB. Ben has a canny knack of writing songs that reflect his ability to see the noteworthy in the everyday. His ear for melody shines through the songwriting, blending lo-fi experimental folk-pop with an emphasis on melody and lyricism, inspired artists including The Velvet Underground, Jeff Tweedy, Of Montreal and Cate le Bon. The narrative for the record was created in collaboration with Lloyd Bent who runs Bingo Records. Ben and Lloyd moved to Pitsmoor in Sheffield, a neighbourhood that occupies the top of a hill which drops onto a big industrial area of Sheffield. Ben explains; Our neighbour has lived here for the best part of 40 years and though the area is still vibrant now in a different way, I enjoy hearing his version of the neighbourhood in the 70’s and 80’s.”
The album tells a story of a young woman called Jenny who lives in Pitsmoor in the late 1970’s. It seems the whole town is against her as she fails her third job interview in a row. Her family have no interest in her life, opportunity is scarce and the world she lives in seems to be closing in. On the way to a dance that she hasn’t been invited to, she cuts through the graveyard to save some time. Through a series of events, she is abducted by aliens who impart some serious disco knowledge upon her. On her return to earth, the odds have changed and newly empowered with her dancing skills, she becomes the talk of the town for the night. The artwork features an X-Files style photoshoot of an alien caught in a graveyard which incorporates a set and motif from the narrative of the album. As Ben elaborates; “Our drummer Zac adorned a papier maché alien head I’d made in the kitchen, a metallic spandex suit and a leather tassled biker jacket.” Who is Jenny Jones is a fully realized and extraordinary piece of work, full of imagination and catchy hooks, delving in both social realism and the surreal. As Ben says, “It’s funny, dark and surreal but I like how the story kind of represents the exciting, incredible things new movements in subculture can do to young people living in provincial areas.
Catalogue number: BINGO012LP
Label: Bingo Records