Brendan Benson: My Old, Familiar Friend

Music Reviews Brendan Benson
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Brendan Benson: <em>My Old, Familiar Friend</em>

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.