There aren’t a lot of artists from Germany who enjoy an international reputation. But this is likely to change with the debut album of Cologne-based band BenjRose. The German outfit has succeeded in creating a first album which is almost the perfect match between pop and rock at the most advanced level. Of course these things don’t happen overnight; they’ve been four years in the making. With a little help from their friend Rami Jaffee, keyboardist for the internationally renowned and critically acclaimed Foo Fighters. The 49-year-old has worked in the business for quite some time; before joining Dave Grohl’s cohorts he was booked as a session musician and producer for acts like The Wallflowers, Victoria Williams, Leah Andreone, Everclear, Richie Sambora, Pete Yorn, Grant Lee Buffalo, Coheed And Cambria. He met the band in a small town called Drabenderhöhe near Cologne in 2009 and immediately offered his services as a mentor. Not only did he co-write 4 songs on the album, he also made it possible for the band to cross the big pond to tour the States for the very first time ever. That overseas experience, including various gigs at the famous South by Southwest (SXSW) music convention in Austin/Texas, has influenced the album as well. It’s hardly surprising that the debut album of BenjRose sounds the way it sounds: spontaneous, but professional; catchy, but not one-dimensional; motivated, but not overachieving. Simply an international production made for an international audience. With a frontman like Benjamin Rose not only consequential, but compelling: the 35-year-old son of Randolf Rose, a Puerto-Rican-Indian soul singer, and a German mother grew up in the north of Germany and has lived for his music ever since. His versatile voice and spellbinding stage presence define the songs on an album that doesn’t sound like a sterile studio production with auto-tune. It’s almost a spirited live recording. So it‘s really hard to put this multi-faceted effort into the typical categories. The driving garage rock of opener “Where Do We Go“ starts a tour de force through the whole range of distinctive styles that make up today’s modern pop rock, ending with the wonderful acoustic ballad “Trails Acoustic” (sic!). Alongside Rose, the two guitar players Alex Auer (Xavier Naidoo, Söhne Mannheims, among others) and Robert Schuller (Wingenfelder) together with drummer Benno Müller vom Hofe create a mix of different sounds and songs, keeping the influences of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Queen alive. The power ballad “No Catastrophe” is followed by a funky number entitled “Lovetrain” which the late Prince would have been throughly proud of. “No One Else” celebrates danceable Rock, to this day only known from British bands during the 2000s, garnished with a little bit of trance which should make it easy to transfer the song to stadium and singalong contexts. If you like acts like Muse, Imagine Dragons or early U2, you will also like “Broken Heels”, that is for sure. Another perfect example of timeless and contemporary pop rock is the song “Feel Alive”. The powerful ballad “Mistakes” could well be another one for the girls in the audience, with touching and honest lyrics. The poet needs the pain, as they say. Same thing applies to “You Can Come Back” – the lyrics define the song whereas the quiet, soulful music fits Rose’s voice perfectly. It is one of the few examples on the album where you can sense Rami Jaffee’s feel for arrangements get under the listener’s skin. However, “Break A Habit” lives off its compact and consolidated atmosphere, the ballad finishing up in a furious finale featuring screaming guitars.
This debut album simply justifies the enormous advance praise the band has received from the very beginning, playing gigs all over Germany without having a proper record contract. Serving as support act for different international and national artists such as Pink, Seed, Hurts, Philipp Poisel, Deichkind, being the special guests on a huge arena tour by famous German vocalist Westernhagen in 2015, or playing big festivals like Open Flair, Gamescom, Reeperbahnfestival or hr3@night have made the band an unstoppable live unit that headliners have more than once congratulated. Adding the reactions of the American audience at South by Southwest, who shook their heads in disbelief, there’s only one way to conclude this page: the members of BenjRose all own German passports, but they may need them frequently in the not-so-distant future, possibly as a support act on the next Foo Fighters world tour?