Benjamin Clementine's recent EP "Cornerstone" laid the foundation for this ravishing album "At least for now". This 26 year old Londoner who learned his trade via Paris owes more to European theatrical traditions than the turgid run of mill pop dominating the charts. There are easy comparisons made in terms of Clementine's music to the drama of Nina Simone and the operatics of Anthony Hegarty but this does not do justice. Benjamin Clementine ranges over different disciplines and styles with consummate ease. He is a self-taught singer and pianist whose powerful voice and genre-defying narrative music are audacious in their execution.
The album contains a number of songs from his two recent EPs and it would have been nice to have had more originals present. Assuming however that this is the first point of contact with Clementine for most listeners this debut is an impressive listen by an artist who is a compelling musician. Songs like the beautifully soulful "London" and the "Sinnerman" soundalike "Adios" show him at his absolute best with his passion worn on the sleeve and imagination cut loose. Others like "Winston Churchill's Boy" paraphrases the great War Leader opening with the lines "Never in the field of human affection / Had so much been given for so few attention." and develops into a beautiful piano torch song. Others like "Gone" are heartfelt ballads which are simple in construction and prove that Clementine can be at his best when he is at his most economical. There is some weirdness here and frankly a good producer really would have reigned some of it in. Thus the strained chant "St-Clementine-On-Tea-And-Croissants" is mercifully short while "Quiver a little" lacks any real melody and the structure becomes disjointed. Alternatively the powerful "Cornerstone" is easily on of the best songs that will grace the music world in 2015 and the jazzy "Nemesis" is not far behind it ending with a huge vocal from Clementine.
There is often a nagging feeling that if Benjamin Clementine could reign back some of his natural exuberance he would be a better singer however would it also mean that he would be a lesser artist? This duality of roles may need resolving at some point but for now learning to love these contradictions is at the heart of enjoying Benjamin Clementine. "At least for now" is an often scintillating debut by an artist who is trying to do something different and unique. There is no shame in the fact that he does not always pull it off his grand vision for even where it falters it is completely endearing.
Review by Red on Black