An Innocent Evening of Drinking
57:20 min • CovBoy Records • April 14, 2008
Little Bastard reviews
My definition of a classic album is an album where every song is amazing. All killer, no filler, with a cultural or political relevance that will defy music fashion in order to be timeless. And whilst others might look to Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, George Michael or Elton John for classic albums by gay artists, I wanted to look closer to home.
Declan Bennett is something of a hero of mine. Unashamedly open about his sexuality, but never succumbing to a stereotype, he’s one of a handful of gay artists I truly identify with, and this album cemented my love affair with his music. But of course, I was always going to fall in love with an album that opened with the line,
He’s diluting my innocence, but I really don’t mind –
It’s a wickedly evocative lyric, and that sense of lyrical empathy never lets up from start to finish. One of the most enchanting things about Declan is his incredibly visual way with words. Lyrically brilliant throughout, Declan sends you directly into his head and locks the door behind you, forcing you to feel his music rather than purely listening to it. Throughout the album, Declan gives us locations (“Lying on the floor in someone else’s clothes” in the song ‘Blu-Tack’, for instance) and metaphors, such as the wonderful Scrabble metaphor in ‘Z’s & Q’s’,
My brain feels like Scrabble, and I’m losing the game,
Cause all I’ve got is Z’s & Q’s –
The acoustic instrumentation, which travels through glorious to somber, transports us through his own emotional journey so successfully that I’m not sure if he’s written about my life or if he’s made me feel like I’ve lived his.
‘Therapy’ is the perfect mid tempo pop song, with a luscious melody, gorgeous instrumentation and lyrics that create a short film in your head without you even realising. In fact, the storytelling in this song is so effortless that its video was the result of a fan competition, where Declan chose the treatment he liked the most, and then the video was made. (I was always annoyed at myself that I never entered.) The song was released as a single, and it’s always amazed me that it never catapulted him to stardom.
Other standouts for me include ‘4 or 5 Beers’ with it’s gorgeous melodic refrain of
I’m not sorry for staring,
Oh it’s only ’cause you’re beautiful –
being one of the album’s strongest choruses; the superb title track, with its tale of drunken sex with someone you shouldn’t (we’ve all been there, right?); the bare, DiFranco-esque guitar of ‘Lessons In Love’, which is as up tempo as we get, but again the pathos prevails, and we’re definitely not in a happy place.
Musically, he sits somewhere between heroes Ani DiFranco and Damian Rice, but with an underlying pop sensibility that comes from his background in pop music and his love of indie pop artists like Robyn. An Innocent Evening Of Drinking is folk pop perfection, that hugely affected me on it’s release in 2008, and it’s a testament to our current throwaway music culture that Declan’s never had, what people refer to as, “a break”. Despite having a large following in America, due to extensive work on Broadway and the national tour of grunge Opera Rent, and a sizeable following in the UK, helped by his recent stint in the musical Once, he still remains somewhat of an unknown. A recently landed role in Eastenders might change that, and people might finally see Declan for the accomplished artist he is. Until then this album is essential listening for any fans of well written pop, folk, or just music in general. It’s also the most lyrically arresting album I’ve heard in years, and deserves to be heard for that reason in general.
There are many gay artists around nowadays, but Declan remains at the top of the list. I love artists that write without fear, and there’s a certain fearlessness that comes with anonymity. I just hope that, as Declan becomes more successful, he retains that unashamed honesty that makes me regard his music as classic and important. If he does, and if his last studio album Record:Breakup is anything to go by who knows, he may have another classic album in the digital pages of Polari Magazine before we know it.