While he might sometimes seem overlooked amongst his more outspoken Xtra Mile contemporaries like Frank Turner, Against Me! and Beans on Toast, Berkshire bred singer-songwriter Ben Marwood has breezily and unassumingly gained a substantial following in the folk-rock world, supporting Turner on tour, selling out small venues and becoming enough of a festival staple that 2000 Trees named a camp after him.
After two warmly received albums, the future seemed bright for Mr. Marwood – until an undisclosed illness forced him into an involuntary exile that lasted nearly four years. Anyone worried that Marwoods third effort would consist of ramblings from the sick-bed need not worry – as he told GigSOUP back in February (https://www.gigsoupmusic.com/interviews/ben-marwood-exclusive-gigsoup-interview/) , the bulk of the album had already been composed before his unexpected hiatus. ‘I’m Wide Awake its Boring’ with its ennui opening couplet of, ‘I’m lying flat on my back/Channel 4 will only show me crap’ and refrain of ‘I’m not dead, I’m not dying, I just can’t get up’ is the only track that seems to point explicitly to its creators downtime.
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That said, much of ‘Get Found’ deals, in a more abstract sense, with mortality and her many faces – not just the mortality of Marwood, a musician who has always seemed older than his years, but that of everyone, be that reminding the listener of their eventual demise in the refrain of, ‘You all must die’ on the wonderfully titled, ‘The Devil Makes Work for Jazz Hands’ or weaving an existentialist love story with ancient architecture on the intriguing, ‘Bury Me in the Pantheon’.
A somewhat superfluous piano interlude in ‘DNFTTS’ and a skittish opening number which incorporates some pre-recorded child dialogue aside, Marwood isn’t looking here to break new sonic ground – for the most part ‘Get Found’ is straightforward easy folk music. ‘The Church of No Commandments’ – one of the records real standouts – is a lively number which feels strongly like an aural sequel to his 2011 hit ‘Singalong’. The nicely pensive, ‘In Black and White’ calls back the early days of NY anti-folk, whilst ‘Nights’, with its heavy-strums and earworm fatalism is a grand fit for the ‘folk-punk’ label Marwood is often saddled with.
It can sometimes take a couple of listens to really appreciate it, but Marwoods often cryptic, often sardonic songwriting has the charm of sounding like it was pulled from the long-forgotten journals of everyday people whose stories they thought would never be told. ‘Pantheon’ and ‘Bones’ are the highlights in this regard, blending some intriguing poetry with some of Maywood’s best guitar work to date. Interestingly, he has not only allowed one space for a cover here – Band of Hopes, ‘Baby You’re A Mess’ – but even used his soulful rendition as the albums lead track, and while its obviously less confessional than the rest, the song seems to mesh well.
As he embarks on his first full tour post-absence, we have good reason to hope ‘Get Found’ is the start of a solid second act. Ben Marwood’s return to the fold, for all that it is generally a very mellow record isn’t an easily accessible album – but its most certainly a commendable and highly satisfying one.