“What can you do with a BA in English?” they crow in the smash-hit musical, Avenue Q. But what those puppets don’t realise is that a BA in English equips you with two astronomically important things: the ability to lie in until two in the afternoon, and a natural advantage when reviewing albums where the singer doesn’t sing his lyrics but speaks them instead.

An album like Listener’s Return To Struggleville, for instance, where frontman Dan Smith talks his way through most the songs, with a voice that sounds like it’s been ravaged by a lemon grater. Here, the BA-in-English-er stops and thinks to his or herself, “Wow, this fellow is speaking loudly and angrily over all these songs. He must have some grandiose statement to make. He must be a POET!” - thus the 'let’s-do-some-analysis' alarm goes off, accompanied by much gleeful hand-rubbing.

Dan Smith is a poet. Make no mistake. From the off, his lyrics have a splinter-like ability to dig into you which never loses momentum. The general theme of the album seems to be about the sterilising effect of the recession on the human spirit, or, as Smith himself puts it, a situation where people are “chasing possessions and not putting worth in people." This is flagged up at frequent points, but perhaps never more strikingly than in ‘Ozark Empire’, where Smith plays a rogue salesman who beguiles the sad and lonely by promising to cure all their problems with suspicious pills. Another lyrical sucker punch is dealt in the wizened, pedal-steel opener, ‘Death By Shotgun’. Here, we are told about the newly jobless man who everyday fantasises about “eating a barrel-full” as he sits on a park bench, fully suited, hiding from his wife. Even when a more hopeful message surfaces, such as in the quirky ‘When No Else Will Be Your Friend, I Will Do The Job’, the sandpaper quality of Smith’s voice keeps things raw and edgy, saving Listener from Christian rap territory. As a vocalist, Smith is reminiscent of Mewithoutyou’s Aaron Weiss, which is no bad thing.

What a pity, then, that the actual music on Return To Struggleville is so weak. It’s mostly just toothless guitar parts and tinny drum machines. Obviously as Listener are a ‘talk’ project, the backing instrumentals can’t be obtrusive because that would draw attention away from Smith’s potent words – the band’s main engine . However, Listener aren’t doing themselves any favours with their scout-camp chords (see ‘I Have Nothing But Attention When I Scream’) and demo-tape-nu-metal moments. ‘Five Year Plan’ is particularly unedifying: it starts quite attractively with a misty guitar arpeggio, but then when Smith gets angry in the second verse, it manically bolts off into nowhere with gallumphing power chords and bloated emotion. In other words, it’s a Linkin Park song.

So, essentially, Return To Struggleville is good words but bad music. The poets of yesteryear may have squandered their talents in opium dens and knocking shops, but Dan Smith is choosing to piss his away in a bland emo rap band. It’s a crying shame, and you don’t need a BA in English to work that out.