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Breakout singer-songwriter Ben Rogers has made a big name for himself in a very short time. His debut album, produced and arranged by producer-brother Matthew (with a little help from Big Sugar’s Gordie Johnson) sounds like an album by a veteran performer. Sometimes Rogers sounds like Gram Parsons in his storytelling mode. Night on the Ghost Town uses this technique to explore a Leaving Las Vegas scenario. At other times Rogers adopts Parsons’ confessional mode (and vocal mannerisms), as he does on the dolorous anti-war rhythm-and-blues march The (Red, White, and) Blues. Rogers also has a taste for quixotic wordplay. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Sex, Drugs, and Disco memorably puts down a vapid person with the zinger, “no flash in her flashback.” But it is, like too many of Rogers’ songs, a collection of zingers that don’t really assist in the delivery of the narrative at which the song hints. (This is known to rock critics by the acronym “E.C.S” or “Elvis Costello Syndrome.”) And sometimes, like Costello, Rogers fumbles while reaching for an inventive metaphor or play on words. The aforementioned song’s “It won’t be over ’till when porks fly/ and Hitler lights the menorah” is simultaneously non-grammatical, a strained assonance masquerading as a half-rhyme (one that doesn’t even qualify as the pun it so desperately wishes to be), a failed attempt to play with the “when pigs fly” cliché, and a cack-handed attempt at provocation that ends up in befuddlement. Rogers’ songs attempt to combine a number of seemingly irreconcilable elements – rock, country-blues, robotic funk – and come up with some striking combinations, but overall, he attempts more than he can achieve. (Erik Weisengruber)


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