The story of Pluto Revolts’ founder Benjamin James’ life in music is a captivating and illuminating tale. It begins with youthful music dreams, which would escalate until crashing head on into the music industry’s mathematical coldness, which places little value on creativity and artistic freedom. The makers are often cut loose and left with nothing if they refuse to acquiesce to the demands of the purse-string holders. In high school, James was the frontman for Cincinnati Pop Rock group Bottom Line, whose popularity grew to the point where it earned a major-label deal with Maverick Records in the mid-’00s. Ultimately, the band’s Maverick debut was unceremoniously shelved and Bottom Line was dumped from the label.
That first chapter of James’ musical life ended in the kind of weighty frustration and disillusionment that has left many musicians so bitter and disheartened that they abandon music altogether. But the second chapter of James’ creative journey is one full of soul-searching, rejuvenation and redemption. Pluto Revolts has been the vehicle for James’ reawakening and rebirth. Originally a solo studio side project that came about toward the end of Bottom Line, it gave James the creative outlet he needed, allowing him to experiment and revel in the soul-enriching gratification that the mere act of being creative brings. Almost every musician, regardless of talent, has that moment when they intellectually recognize and accept that superstardom is, at best, a long-shot pipedream. Despite having the talent to achieve his goals, James experienced that moment like a violent car crash. But his recovery has helped him understand the personal importance and worth of his artistry.
James has taken his time with Pluto Revolts, working on material until he’s satisfied and taking chances his previous group was discouraged from taking. Lyrically he often addresses the very issues he’s had to work to overcome, from crushing disappointment to rediscovery and rebirth. The motivationally titled Suffer No Delusions EP was self-made and self-released in 2008. Without constantly pushing himself on people in the biz, James was finding that if the music was well crafted, inspired and coming from a place of uncompromised sincerity, others would come to it without much prodding, something Pluto Revolts’ growing local core of fans proves.
That is not to say that Pluto Revolts is not going to experience bigger success. As the four songs on the new Tidal Wave show, the band (which now actually is a full band, both for live shows and on the new album) has a sound as accomplished, passionate and effectual as any Indie/Electro/Pop act on the market. The guitar work on the tracks moves between funky riffage and billowing atmospherics, while the beats and rhythms have both a soulful Indie Rock variance and the precision and insistent incitement of Dance music.
James shows he’s in top songwriting form right now — it’s not hard to imagine him becoming a songwriter for other big-name Pop artists. Tidal Wave’s deftly designed structures and striking melodic magnetism would make the songs impressive if merely played on an acoustic guitar. But the Electronic enhancements take things to the next level, often giving the music a New Wave/Synth Pop feel. Though you might be able to match some techniques to classic Alt bands like New Order (and the excellent “Out There” sounds like a young Duran Duran), Pluto Revolts has more in common with contemporary creative-but-dance-ready Indie Dance or Electro Pop artists like Passion Pit, Empire of the Sun or Foals.
A smart record label (one that understands the value of “artistic freedom”) could do a lot with Pluto Revolts. But Pluto Revolts is doing just fine on its own. For more on the group, go to plutorevolts.com.
CONTACT MIKE BREEN: [email protected]