Beardyman – ‘Distractions’ [Review]
In an age of instant gratification, where everyone wants everything yesterday, dropping a sophomore album over three and a half years after your debut can be an anxiety-provoking event. It can be argued that music fans are more fickle than ever, easily susceptible as we all are to distraction and immediate amnesia – and under such conditions, almost any musician could reasonably expect the world to have moved on over the course of 42 minutes, let alone months. However, Beardyman is no standard-issue artist.
The extended delay between I Done A Album and Distractions has been due to the development of the Beardytron5000 – an intimidatingly complex music production tool that is to modern music studios what the Starship Enterprise is to a bottle rocket. Throughout that time, Beardyman has hardly been silent; the past few years have been peppered with Beardytron-related updates, while a TED talk demonstrating the power of Beardyman’s pet tech monster is creeping steadily toward half a million views. Distractions makes exclusive use of the Beardytron5000 – but ironically, the employment of a tool designed to serve its father’s self-confessed musical ADD by facilitating the creation of limitless studio-grade tunes in real time has inspired Beardyman’s most focussed set yet.
On Distractions, the comedic asides of I Done A Album are conspicuously absent – bar the Aphex Twin-ribbing title of the two-minute Fndege.Gurp and the inclusion of Brain, previously presented on pre-Distractions EP Concentrations. Instead, I Done A Album‘s heartwarming (and sadly audio-only) depictions of Simon Cowell lying in a pool of his own blood and Justin Bieber being torn apart by a pack of wild dogs have been replaced by the Jamiroquai-esque jazz-funk vibes of Perfect Waste Of Time; the lilting grace of A View; the uncharacteristically downbeat I Will Never Win; and the ethereal and folk-tinged Mountain Side. Meanwhile, the Beardyman of old still shines through on the remaining tracks, from sleek and sexy opener A Cheerful And Sunny Disposition to the closing Before The Fall/Move On via the perky bounce of 2^25,000:1 Against And Falling; the shiny guitar of Getting There; and infectious TMMP favourite You Only Like What You Know, which fuses solid and direct lyrics with cutesy synth-pop vibes that stop just short of Gee territory.
Distractions represents a Pokémon-like evolution not only for Beardyman as an artist, but also for the world of music as a whole. Just as Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile and Felix Baumgartner became the first man to skydive from the edge of space, Distractions demonstrates how something once thought impossible can be proven to lie within the realms of human possibility in a hugely inspiring fashion. I’ve no doubt that many musicians will be freshly motivated by Beardyman’s boundary-shattering efforts, but even when the pack begins to catch up to Distractions, we can safely bet that the mind behind it will be restlessly exploring territories far beyond even this.
Whether you’re a musician, a music fan, or just insatiably curious, Distractions is an album well worth concentrating on. Stop three-screening – a pair of headphones will be all you need.
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