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Incredible Self Confidence
Discontent is a Luxury of the Well-to-Do Tom Bolton , January 23rd, 2020 09:57

The first album by Incredible Self Confidence is likeable, literate and accomplished, finds Tom Bolton

The first album from Incredible Self Confidence (Ben Bennett and Elizabeth Clough) rounds off a year of exceptional productivity for the sardonic, tune-smitten duo. Incredible Self Confidence delivers a cheerfully downbeat full length record, released on Mouth of Gold Records, and populated with likeable, literate and accomplished songs. Rising from the ashes of intriguing never-made-its Milky Onions, this stripped down successor retains the key elements – Bennett’s clear, light voice and guitar and Clough’s vocals, synths and soundscapes – that made their EP#1 from earlier this year such a satisfying listen. Like a feed hooked into the guitar pop genealogy of the 1990s, with its retransmitted psychedelia, funk and classic pop, the album is filled with highly confident songwriting and production.

The band feeds off a rush of images, which they grab as they flash across the ether and wrestle into new forms. Their reshaping of reality through wordplay and irony runs from their band name through song titles such as ‘RAM Shackle’ to the use of sampled news reports, football commentary and dialogue of unidentifiable origin. Discontent is a Luxury of the Well-to-Do rechannels cultural experiences from the end of the last century, projecting them into an unclean future beset by doubt.

The musical influence are varied and sometimes unexpected, but strangely convincing. ‘Long Time’ suggests Michael Head and the Strands, with head-rush psychedelic melody and guitar thrash blasting through a song that is over in less than ninety seconds. ‘Lily Livered’ hints at Rumours era Fleetwood Mac, with Clough as Stevie Nicks. ‘RAM Shackle’ has a bass line that is naggingly familiar but defies labelling. ‘So Long Ago’, with its refrain “smooth operator crumbles up your mind”, is a softly funky track in a minor key that is startlingly unlike the music of the 2010s. The same definitely goes for ‘Clawed Gut’ which has disconcerting suggestions of Mike Oldfield’s ‘Moonlight Shadow’ in its intro.

Elsewhere, there are reminders of, on the one hand, the artless tune-making of Daniel Johnston and, on the other, the self-aware cassette plundering of Ariel Pink. The mindless assurance of the originals is replaced by uncertainty, fragmentation and stories of gentle despair. These songs do not fit a template, but they are entirely irresistible.

The atmosphere of Incredible Self Confidence’s debut lingers long beyond its playing time. Listening to the album is to enter another world-view, where all the familiar elements have been reordered, and to see that it makes unexpected sense. Incredible Self Confidence write songs with character and finesse that are undeniable signs of distinctive and original talents. Discontent is a Luxury of the Well-to-Do is a strange and wonderful album that will burrow its way into your cortex and take up residence.