Brendan Benson: My Old, Familiar FriendMusic Reviews Brendan Benson
Raconteur gets back to his old, familiar solo roots
Brendan Benson is more famous for being overshadowed by Jack White in the Raconteurs than he is for his twelve-year string of intelligent, inventive solo albums. That’s no fault of his own: Sturdy power-pop melodies are by definition more modest than blues-rock riffage. Benson’s fourth album is full of all the clever lyrics and dynamic melodies you’d expect, with nods galore to the 1970s: analog production, layered vocals, ELO synths, laidback drumming. His predictability is reassuring, and as always, the memorable tracks are the most spirited ones. Opener “A Whole Lot Better” (not a Kinks cover, but close enough) kicks out of the gate with a buoyant organ riff and a supremely catchy hook, and “Garbage Day,” which borrows liberally from Philly soul, bolsters Benson’s lonely lyrics with high-flying strings and an insistent backbeat. Ignoring the historical divide between the rock club and the dancefloor, he adds disco beats to the stand-out “Feel Like Taking You Home, which builds to a tense and potently noisy finale. Slower songs like “Gonowhere” and “You Make a Fool Out of Me” can be a drag, but what My Old, Familiar Friend lacks in consistency it more than compensates for with adventurous diversity.