Fryars – ‘Power’

Long-delayed second album is often brilliant, frequently quirky, but occasionally jarring

Benjamin Garrett’s second album as Fryars arrives five years after his debut ‘Dark Young Hearts’ and two years after excitement-building singles ‘Love So Cold’ and ‘In My Arms’. In a recent NME interview, Garrett blamed the long and arduous delay on “label issues” after problems with his old home 679. The 24-year-old Londoner was left isolated and without an outlet for his music. Thankfully, the story has a happy ending, as Garrett was eventually able to move to Fiction Records – home to The Maccabees and Elbow – and release ‘Power’.

Though often brilliant, it’s a disparate album, and it’s easy to see how it might have stumped bigwigs at Garrett’s former label. It begins strongly, with a series of glorious pop songs that are melancholy and affecting. “I like to think I’m the solitary type/With less conviction when the loneliness bites”, he sings candidly on ‘Love So Cold’. Meanwhile, ‘Don’t Make It So Hard On Yourself’ and ‘In My Arms’ show off Garrett’s gift for melody (Lily Allen recently hired him as a co-writer) without skimping on the quirky production tricks he began honing in his bedroom as a teenager. The former has unexpected oriental flourishes; the latter’s off-kilter beats speed up thrillingly mid-track before slowing down again.

But as the record progresses, Garrett sounds less like pop’s next big thing and more like an artist who specialises in tracks for trendy blogs. The widescreen odd-pop of ‘Sequoia’ belongs on the soundtrack to a bumbling American indie flick, while ‘China Voyage’ grafts swelling Scott Walker-style choruses onto verses featuring spoken word Chinese – it’s cute, but jarringly odd. ‘Can’t Stop Loving You’ is wasteful, as Garrett spoils a lovely melody and some otherwise emotive lyrics with a single glib couplet: “I’d like a family with you/Now you’re earning above average revenue.” A smattering of silly interludes towards the end hardly help pull things together either. This all adds up to a qualified success: ‘Power’’s handful of great tunes make it worth the wait, but its more affected moments make it difficult to love.