Sunday, July 17, 2011

Brendan Benson - A Rough Guide

From Wikipedia:
"Brendan Benson is an American musician and songwriter. He sings and
plays guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, and drums. He has released four
solo albums and is a member of the band The Raconteurs".

According to AllMusic, Benson is "a Michigan-born songwriter who
occupies the rockier end of the power pop spectrum (more indebted to
the Who than the Raspberries, that is)".  Other influences include the
Kinks, T. Rex, the Beatles, and Paul McCartney's solo work.  Read more

I found his music via The Raconteurs (aka The Saboteurs), one of Jack
White's side-projects (that's Jack White of The White Stripes).

Benson's official website:

The links in the guide below are to YouTube movies and Soundcloud
tracks.  Apologies for any ads that may appear during playback on
YouTube.  If you can, I suggest installing ad-blocking software :)

The "rough guide" ...

1. "House in Virginia"

Benson's debut album, "One Mississippi", was released in 1996.  It got
positive reviews, but wasn't a commercial success.  I agree it was a
promising debut.  Some songs perhaps are a bit too cute, but they all
generally show potential.  Only one song, "Crosseyed", had an official
video.  But I've chosen "House in Virginia" as my personal highlight.
Other noteworthy tracks include "Tea", "Me Just Purely", "Emma J" and

2. "Tiny Spark"

After the release of his debut, Benson toured and performed with other
bands for a few years.  Then in 2002 he got a new label and his second
solo album, "Lapalco", was released.  This is the official video for
the opening track from "Lapalco".  It's classic guitar pop.

3. "Metarie"

The album's second track has a laid-back start, with Benson singing over
an acoustic guitar and accompanied by occasional flourishes of
atmospheric synth.  Eventually the chorus kicks in and the song builds
to a full band piece.  There was an official video made, but as it uses
a different mix of the track, I've picked a fan-made clip using the
album version.

4. "Folk Singer"

Released as an EP, this uptempo song is fueled by distorted guitar.  It
has a cool putdown line delivered girlfriend, "She said 'stop pretending,
you're not John Lennon'".

"Good to Me", "You're Quiet", "Eventually", and "Life In The D" are some
of the other great tracks on this very solid album.  Like the debut,
many of the songs were co-written and co-produced by Jason Falkner.
Unfortunately, it wasn't a big commercial success either.

5. "Spit It Out"

Benson's third album, "The Alternative to Love", was released in 2005.
The opening track, "Spit It Out" was released as the first single.
Another slice of classic guitar pop, it was also his first song to chart
in the UK.

6. "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)"
Another single and standout track from "The Alternative to Love".  A
song about star-crossed love, it has great melodies.  The partially
animated video incorporates some dark humour that matches the lyrics.

7. "Flesh and Bone"

Like "Metarie", this song starts out as a mellow acoustic guitar number
which gets fleshed out at various times with strings, synth and vocal
harmonies.  The track ends abruptly on the album, leading straight into
the next one ...

8. "Get It Together"
This is a rocking, power pop song.  Overall, another solid album that
critics appreciated.  But commercial success continued to elude the
talented Benson.  Other highlights include "The Pledge", with its
Spector-esque wall of sound, "Biggest Fan", and "Alternative To Love"
(which reminded me a bit of Gomez).

Around that time, Benson and long-time friend Jack White formed The
Raconteurs.  The group's debut album, "Broken Boy Soldiers", was
released in 2006.  I'll probably write more about The Raconteurs in a
future Rough Guide.

9. "A Whole Lot Better"

Benson's fourth solo album, "My Old, Familiar Friend" was released in
2009.  This time, he enlisted renowned British producer Gil Norton
(Pixies, Foo Fighters, The Triffids).  The opening track is a straight-
out retro-inspired rocker, and was the first single from the album.

10. "Gonowhere"

More retro pop, this time a slower tempo adding synths and piano.

11. "You Make a Fool Out of Me"

A nice, McCartney-esque ballad, complete with strings.

12. "Misery"

To wrap this guide up, my favourite track from the album.  It neatly
encapsulates Benson's style of power pop, with its plaintive verses
building seamlessly into singalong choruses.

Another consistently good album.  Other great songs include the Motown-
styled "Garbage Day", the reflective "Lesson Learned", and the upbeat
and catchy "Poised and Ready".  Benson has posted most of the album's
tracks to Soundcloud, so check them out at: