Release Date: Aug 18, 2009
Record label: ATO
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
There’s no way to prove Jack White was holding Brendan Benson hostage in the Raconteurs, but, boy, is it nice to have him back as a solo act. My Old, Familiar Friend is one warm power-pop bath ?after another, a cornucopia of oceanfront harmonies, plunky keys, and psychedelic marginalia, plus some Love Unlimited Orchestra-style strings thrown in for grins. Should not be consumed by the melody-averse.
It’s more than just a shame that many listeners were introduced to Brendan Benson when he joined forces with indie demigod Jack White to lay those forgettable Raconteurs records on the world. Truth be told, the Raconteurs did little more than stifle Benson’s unique and vast sonic language. Hard to believe that amidst all of the “I’m with the weird dude in the Stripes” hype, Benson has released three beautiful and pop-driven records.
Jack White dominated the Raconteurs so much that it was tempting to wonder what exactly Brendan Benson did, save the occasional tour de force and possibly making the tea. Thus, his fans will be glad to know that he's back to what he does best: pithily observed, sharply constructed power-pop. His fourth solo album finds the singer-songwriter, as ever, exploring what effervescent opener A Whole Lot Better describes as the "in and out of love" conundrum.
Raconteur gets back to his old, familiar solo roots 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.
My Old, Familiar Friend is Brendan Benson's first album since becoming Jack White's lieutenant in the Raconteurs, but the group's raucous classicist guitar rock isn't readily apparent on this, Benson's fourth collection of precisely practiced pop. If anything, the higher profile he's received as part of the Raconteurs has offered Benson the opportunity to ratchet up his perfectionism and indulge in a bit of retro fantasia, allowing him to pair the bright neo-Motown of "Garbage Day" with "Gonowhere," a rather brilliant pastiche of prime Wings. All the extra time and budget on My Old, Familiar Friend does result in a record where it's easier to admire Benson's reach but it's at a cost: the extra care does take a good deal of the power out of his power pop, putting his music somewhat at a remove even when it's at its liveliest, as on the opener "Eyes on the Horizon" or the cheerful, not entirely ironic, breakup stomp "Don't Wanna Talk.
Jack White didn't rescue Brendan Benson from obscurity so much as recast him into a different kind of obscurity. Admittedly, many more folks have seen and heard Benson in the Raconteurs than have encountered him as a solo artist, but (literally) standing in the shadow of Jack White, even when you share vocal and songwriting duties, imposes a different sort of shroud than the fog of anonymity. In many ways, then, Benson's fourth solo album, My Old, Familiar Friend, offers a third start to a stuttering career hindered by label woes, radio indifference, and the kinds of hurdles generally not faced by, say, Jack White.
The annals of power pop make for intimidating reading to anyone who fancies chancing their arm at some candy-flossed vocal harmonies and sing-along-a choruses. How do you match up to ‘My Best Friend’s Girl’ or ‘My Sharona’ or ‘Surrender’? And that's not accounting for early trailblazers like Big Star, Badfinger and the Raspberries. It’s a wonder that anyone bothered to continue with the genre by the time 1980 rolled around.
A re-visit to Brendan Benson’s 2002 LP Lapalco last year on holiday was an odd experience. What felt like a refreshing and vibrant album six years previously became, upon re-listening, dated, turgid and utterly uninspiring. It wasn’t anything like I remembered, but then I realised that I was only seventeen when it came out, I haven’t liked near enough anything he has realised since, both as a solo artist or any of his work with The Raconteurs.
Ledisi For the R&B singer-songwriter Ledisi change is good even when it hurts, and there’s no point in resisting it anyway. “Turn Me Loose” (Verve Forecast), due out Tuesday, is her dissertation on the subject, inspired less by a recent presidential slogan than by a distant blues-rock anthem ….
The Michigan singer-songwriter is now best known for providing the Raconteurs with tunes and his fourth solo album adds a splash of their heaviness to his trademark Beatles-indebted pop..