Under Review: Brendan Benson – My Old, Familiar Friend

Bands with more than one frontman (or woman) are the coolest.  Songs get more sonic variety, especially if both leaders are songwriters.  Just think of all the bands that have of had more than one lead singer: The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Clash, Sonic Youth and, more recently, The Raconteurs.  Of course Jack White brings his unbridled experimental edge to his second band’s work, but it’s Brendan Benson who holds things down with his melodic, power-pop soul.  While White is off, ahem, creating with The Dead Weather, Benson gets a chance to revisit his solo career.  The title of his new album, My Old, Familiar Friend, might allude to that very return, or to Benson himself returning to his audience on his own.  Listening to My Old, Familiar Friend, you’d think that Benson had never even met Jack White.  The songs are tight, focused and catchy, if a bit on the safe side.  “Eyes On The Horizon” references the album’s title while Benson harmonizes with himself, and “Garbage Day” adds some classic Motown strings to back an equally classic extended metaphor for trying to win someone back.  Fans’ first taste of the album was “Feel Like Taking You Home,” an ominous, electric keyboard-led piece that’s more creepy than endearing.  The shift from lonely romantic to lusty hunter works rather well for Benson, who might be seen as the “nice guy” when compared to Jack White’s more impulsive personality.  Later, Benson gets anthemic on “Don’t Wanna Talk” and does his own “Poor Poor Pitiful Me” on “Misery.”  I’m only hoping that “Misery” isn’t actually about Benson’s views on his career: “But nobody’s listening/When every time I open my mouth…”  With Jack White becoming more and more distant, it’d be a shame if fans of The Raconteurs didn’t give the real familiar friend (i.e. Benson himself) the recognition that he has worked so hard to achieve.

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~ by E. on August 26, 2009.

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