Brendan Benson, My Old, Familiar Friend
The power-pop half of the Raconteurs offers more merry melodies
Oh to be a Raconteur. Not Jack White, of course; people love Generation Y's greatest guitar hero so much they're willing to watch him indulge his drummer boy fantasies in the Dead Weather. No, we're referring to the supergroup's other main songwriter — Brendan Benson, a.k.a. the pristine power-pop antidote to White's grimy garage rock tendencies. Believe it or not, Benson had a healthy solo career before Broken Boy Soldiers, one that reaches way back to the mid-'90s. Some people have even gone so far as to say that he's today's answer to Big Star and Matthew Sweet, a comparison Benson appreciates but doesn't totally agree with.
Which is understandable. Top-heavy hooks aside, there's more to Benson's fourth full-length than merry melodies and inescapable choruses. "Feel Like Taking You Home," for one, sounds like a back alley tour of the singer's subconscious, as he rides a subdued disco-punk groove off into the sunrise. There are richly-orchestrated tracks that pay tribute to Motown ("Garbage Day") and wrap Benson's sad sack vocals in sweeping strings ("You Make a Fool Out of Me"). As for the album's certified jam quotient, it's up there, from the raucous organ rolls and brain-burrowing refrains of "A Whole Lot Better" to the sputtering synths and ecstatic peaks of "Borrow." And while he'll never be as universally revered as his old pal Jack, Benson's writing the kind of cuts that cause spontaneous singalongs — and surpass simple name recognition.