Friday, August 14, 2009

Brendan Benson album review

Brendan Benson
My Old, Familiar Friend

Before becoming a quarter of successful alt-rock group The Raconteurs with Jack White & Co. (where he co-wrote all the songs), Brendan Benson spent a decade toiling in a solo career that was critically acclaimed, but only moderately successful. No wonder he once said in a Raconteurs interview: “I got sick of myself; this is the band I always wanted.”

Now that White has jumped to another side project (The Dead Weather), it’s finally time for the world to discover what a supreme talent Benson is alone. Produced by Gil Norton (Foo Fighters, Pixies), fourth effort My Old, Familiar Friend finds the singer/guitarist engaging in his trademark power pop, in addition to psychedelia, New Wave and Motown strains to excellent effect.

Everything kicks off with “A Whole Lot Better,” a frenetic tune about indecisiveness in a relationship that combines a prog rock synth line, handclaps and organ with a melody that recalls early Elvis Costello & the Attractions. The same vibe encompasses “Misery” and “Poised and Ready.”

Benson gets a little darker on the paranoia song “Eyes on the Horizon” (key line: “I’m convinced underneath that black hair/there’s a listening device planted there”), propelled by an Eric Clapton melody (think “I Can’t Stand It”) before swelling into a sugary McCartney-esque chorus. Orchestral strings are at the fore during “Garbage Day,” where Benson has second thoughts about consoling a friend. Among the other standouts: the jaunty “Don’t Wanna Talk” and dense hard rocker “Borrow.”

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