Ben Westbeech has taken both paths recently. Last year's UK funky anthem "Fatherless" by Breach—which took research to reveal was indeed the work of the Westbeech—was a far cry from the acid jazz-tinged 2007 album Welcome to the Best Years of Your Life. And now we have There's More to Life Than This, the second album to bear Westbeech's own name but one that bears just as little resemblance to his debut. Welcome's blue-eyed soul has been shown the door. The new Ben Westbeech has been given a house makeover by producers like Motor City Drum Ensemble, Henrik Schwarz and Rasmus Faber.
But does this new change of direction work? Yes, by and large...even if the "The Book" and "Something for the Weekend" initially make you think Westbeech has been reincarnated as Jamiroquai. The polished jazz-funk and daytime playlist disco aren't entirely unsuccessful, by the way. It's just that There's More to Life gets better from then on. "Justice" has the trademark wintry deep house atmospherics of Motor City Drum Ensemble, "Stronger" is a slowly building groove fashioned by Midland and "Inflections" adds speedily strummed Spanish guitar and rollicking percussion courtesy of Henrik Schwarz. Westbeech has chosen his new friends carefully: This sounds like a coherent album rather than a string of collaborations, with his creamy tones—and occasionally clichéd lyrics—providing a common identity throughout.
That identity doesn't seem as convincing or confident as his instrumental alter ego Breach, however. Indeed, you sometimes feel that Westbeech is hiding behind his producers. (Especially given that "Fatherless' proved he has the studio skills to produce something pretty spectacular—and more unique—on his own.) For the next album it'd be intriguing to see him drop the pseudonyms and the hired hands and combine both sides of himself to showcase the "real" Ben Westbeech, whoever that might be.