My Old, Familiar Friend
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The chilly shadow that comes with being Jack White’s best mate will always be met by dismissive sneers in some quarters – but it does have its merits.
Three solo albums of well-crafted garage pop saw Benson plod steadily into respected obscurity before he was summoned to join the White Stripes man’s latest rock'n'roll plaything, The Raconteurs. Hard-riffing Led Zeppelin fantasies now fulfilled, the Michigan singer-songwriter returns to the day job as a wistful troubadour of bitter sweet 60s heartbreak, and with mixed results.
This time the mild air of DIY scuzz drowns in a sea of lush, crisp production as an unashamedly opulent search for surf-rock perfection begins. Rich harmonies collide, glistening guitar tones crunch and jangle and dreamy romances are blown up into grand, kitchen-sink operas. Sadly, though, the drift from retro Teenage Fanclub melodies into a pedestrian middle-of-the-road chug sucks the life out of the great moments of flippant power-pop. As drab, wallowing balladry and drudging rhythms take hold, even Benson himself seems bored by the aptly titled Beatles dirge Gonowhere.
With Benson neither a melancholy dreamer like Elliott Smith, nor a jaunty genius like Edwyn Collins, My Old, Familiar Friend is bereft of a distinct personality that you can love, hate or even barely notice. What he does have in abundance, however, is a sharp ear, a head full of hooks and a hefty supply of killer one-liners that baffle, charm and touch. “If she throws her heart away / I’ll be there on garbage day / To sift through what’s left, I guess / To sort through the loneliness" is particularly telling.
Striking the perfect marriage between the thundering grime of his Detroit past and his love of soaring, head-bobbing infectiousness, Poised and Ready triumphs as a rush of snarling fuzz, delivered with a sugar-coated glaze. The raucous, rumbling sprawl of Borrow should please Raconteurs fans, while Eyes on the Horizon probably has the best chance of charming radio’s tastemakers.
All told, this is a noble attempt to merge spiky, unassuming indie into joyous vintage pop; but Benson shouldn’t lose White’s phone number just yet. --Colin Irwin
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
After waiting so long for new solowork i expected some more.
I still like it and play it once a week. Have to change it and give it 5 stars.