Caroline International S&D
For his first singer/songwriter solo album in over 30 years, Ben Watt’s Hendra has more in common with his revealing, well-written books (both Patient and Romany and Tom) than anything from his canon as remixer/DJ and as one half of Everything But The Girl. Because of his gifts as (prose) writer, as DJ, producer, songwriter – musician and artist – I want to like Hendra a lot more than I do. There will be other, perhaps breathless, reviews telling you that this is another side – an incredibly earnest side – to one of pop music’s great talents. But actually it sounds like the solo albums John Illsley coughed up between Dire Straits records. Several of the songs here sound like they (should) have been written for Cliff Richard.
Where the stateliness and charm of the chillout/folkie-fix for Dad Rockers was just right on Roddy Frame’s latest here it sounds strange, jarring. There’s treacle and naff and if the name Ben Watt wasn’t on the spine I get the feeling this record would be chuckled at and chucked out. Well, I can still admire everything else he’s done without wanting to lead you – or myself – astray with some false hope around this. Right?
Hendra is at best mildly intriguing. But it’s not worth the time. These songs are perfectly polished – but it’s a bit like walking into a day-spa. You just know that shit’s not real.