The popularity of Jethro Tull continues to amaze me, They draw good crowds, they get lengthy interviews and writeups in the rock press. They turn people on. I’ve got to think that Ian Anderson must be an extremely nice, cooperative, charismatic, or some such kind of cat, because I find his records pretty lame and dumb.
The new album, Benefit, is a sluggish bore — a kind of Anthology of Rock Muzak, performed dispiritedly and mechanically. Especially rhythm — each track creaks stiffly, but given the barren, derivative material Anderson has come up with, the wooden delivery is understandable. His idea of a song is to get some inexpressibly commonplace snippet of melody, repeat it, affix an inane riff or two, and let the boys pound it out — with some occasional and usually ill-advised chirping flute for “texture.” To top it all, I find his singing (this time around) close to vile. But it’s the cold, noisy, insensitive execution of the music (however vapid in and of itself) that provides the true and irremediable pall.
So who needs it? Lots of people, it seems. Has it come to pass that the rock audience is so jaded that a minute or two of flaccid “jazz” and some penurious gestures towards the “exotic” can effectively disguise blatant mediocrity?