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EDIBLE DARLING (2004)
Edible Darling - Click to view!The bizarre toothed tomato on the jacket of Edible Darling immediately hints of stranger things to come, and one would do well to heed this warning. New artist Ben Arthur uses folk music with a rock edge to reveal his affinity for the unusual. The music is satisfactory, and at times Ben's sound is comparable to that of Christian music's own Jars of Clay. However, while Jars of Clay is uplifting and inspirational, Ben Arthur is bitter, cynical and more than a bit twisted. His catchy, upbeat music masks topics from betrayal to death, guaranteeing that even if Ben's unusual cover doesn't freak you out, his lyrics will.

Ambiguity and cryptic language are the backbone of every song, making it difficult to decipher the meaning behind the lyrics. In particular, Ben Arthur seems to be a fan of strange metaphors. This can often be poetic, such as in "Broken-Hearted Smile" when he likens the gap in the post 9/11 skyline to "the missing tooth in a smile." However, many of the other metaphors are downright creepy. Even the more pleasant examples are frustratingly unclear, and it was only after visiting Ben's website that I grasped the connection to the twin towers in "Broken-Hearted Smile."

The album kicks off with "Mary Ann." Although the wording is slyly vague, a few crude lines solidly reveal the purpose of the song to be to "hook up" with Mary Ann. But sexuality isn't the CD's only distasteful aspect. "Keep Me Around" appears cheerful at first, and a playful banjo provides for a rustic folk feel. However, the lyrics cast a morbid shadow as they tell the disturbing tale of a corpse that wants to remain useful after death: "You can hang your clothes / on hooks made of my toes / on the back of the door."

On a more positive note, the CD dabbles delightfully in several musical genres. "Edible Darling" is characterized by its easy-going, 50's style rock, while a piano carries the melody in "Tonight." "Mary Ann" borders on rock, its chorus embellished with DJ scratches and a light siren. "Instrumental #3" is the oasis of the CD, offering a pleasant and surprising change of pace. A simple song, it's pure acoustic guitar and wholly enjoyable. Regrettably, songs like "Wake" negate the value of this musical gem. Even though dropping "Wake" from the track list would've brought the album below it's already-brief 40-minute runtime, the sacrifice would've been appreciated. Two minutes of tuneless distortion coupled with a haunting wail was nothing but painful to hear.

Albeit not a Christian artist, Ben doesn't hesitate to incorporate Christian imagery into several tracks. Unfortunately, the dark themes that haunt his album extend to his faith, preventing it from adding any sense of spirituality to the CD. Lines like "The most beautiful angel / is the angel of death" leave listeners more confused and uneasy than affirmed. The closest Ben comes to broaching real spiritual issues is in the final track, aptly titled "Jesus." This track starts where "Instrumental #3" left off, layering vocal harmony over a similar acoustic guitar melody. Sadly, the lyrics describe only a tormented faith ("Jesus on my knees / I am forsaken") and concludes in despair: "Jesus on my knees / I wait / Jesus on my knees / I remain."

Although it's never a good practice to judge a CD by it's title, Edible Darling is exactly what the name implies—edible, but not entirely appetizing. It definitely has a peculiar flavor, but it's an acquired taste, and only for those with an extremely sardonic sense of humor.
- Becca Tuttle
March 2004
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