Listening to "My Old, Familiar Friend" really is like listening to an old, familiar friend. With this album, Brendan Benson has delivered a fresh slice of power-pop which has echoes of Todd Rundgren, Big Star, Paul McCartney & Wings, ELO and many other giants of the seventies whilst still retaining the individuality of the work In fact, you can listen to this album and hear exactly what Benson offers to the excellent Raconteurs, such is his personal mark. Take, for example, the circa-1979 Elvis Costello and The Attractions opener "A Whole Lot Better" and you'd struggle to find fault with a single note - it's just a joyous experience from start to finish, as is the entire album.
Highlights for me, apart from the fantastic opening track, are the pop-paranoia of "Eyes On The Horizon", the strings-embellished "Garbage Day", the typically brilliant Benson chord-shifts of "Gonowhere", the delicate, heartbreaking "You Make A Fool Out Of Me", the superb, rousing indie power-pop of "Poised and Ready" and the album closer, "Borrow", the Big Star-like "Misery" and the gorgeously sombre "Lessons Learned". On the whole, it's pretty much a fantastically textured album packed full of highlights - there's simply not a bad track on this great collection of well-crafted, beautifully performed songs.
Many reviews I've read so far have compared this album to Benson's back catalogue - some favourably, others not so much. However, if you can bring yourself to forget anything Brendan has released before and listen to this as a new album by a new artist, even the doubters would probably have to admit just how excellent this piece of work is. If this was a debut, I have no doubt that people would be salivating over its greatness. The influences are obvious, but it's not derivative. The harmonies and melodies are classic, but never stolen. This is a punchy, exciting piece of work which is accessible and could win him an army of new fans. It would surprise me if big fans of The Beatles didn't get a huge kick out of "My Old, Familiar Friend", for example.
Highly recommended - make yourself a new friend today.
on 7 October 2009
I feel this review is going to be carping and contradictory as it's going to criticise Benson for ( a) playing safe and doing more of the same and ( b) trying something new and failing(Garbage Day, what the hell was he thinking? That should never have seen the light of day, especially as gems such as Open Your Eyes didn't make it.Can only hope it's being held back for a third Raconteurs' album)
I'm still giving it 4 stars as I doubt it would be possible for Brendan in any project to fall below good/very good but the quibbles are ,it's weak in comparison to Lapalco and Alternative to Love ,certainly justifies its title and perhaps some new friends might have been considered.
on 27 October 2009
From the opening song to the last,this album doesn't dissapoint.There is nothing new or different about these songs,but is clever lyrics coupled with damn fine tunes with subtle key changes make for a catchy and fulfilling album.
The more upbeat numbers are instantly likeable, whereas the slower ones creep up on you slowly and then become the ones you cant stop humming.
Simply it is a classic.
on 11 September 2009
Brendan Benson writes great pop songs with catchy melodies and intelligent lyrics, but since he has so many other projects on the go, his own solo albums seem to appear at four year intervals. It's a long time in music, enough for some bands to play out their entire careers. Fans have patiently waited while Benson palled around with the Raconteurs, and now their patience has been rewarded. My Old Familiar Friend is just what you'd expect from such a title: a new but instantly familiar collection of what Benson does best.
That timeless sound remains, apparently the result of obsessively recording on the oldest possible equipment. There are big tunes and harmonies, little touches of organ and synth, all played by Benson. It starts strong with A Whole Lot Better and Eyes on the Horizon, before bringing out the strings for Garbage Day. You Make a Fool Out of Me is a pretty acoustic lament, Feel Like Taking You Home simmers, Poised and Ready stomps, and if you can't say what you need to in three and half minutes, it isn't worth saying.
My Old Familiar friend wraps up in the blustery outro of Borrow, its 11 tracks over without a minute wasted. Let's hope Benson isn't away for quite so long this time.