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on 26 February 2006
In a state of great expectation after the joy that was 'Lapalco' I bought this album on the back of its first single, 'Spit it out.'
And that is more or less exactly what I did. I half played it, and filed the CD in my collection under "B". (Yup, I Alphabetize my CD's. I do need to get out more, you're right..)
Quelle idiot!
Having heard, 'Cold Hands, Warm Heart' played in a recent episode of Smallville, I thought, "Hey, what a great song..must track it down." Only to discover I already had it on this album. D'oh!
Needless to say, I have since revisited this album many times and have begged the Gods of popular music for their forebearance in the face of my fickleness.
'The Alternative to Love' really is a damn fine piece of kit in its own right. Brendan Benson must surely be one of the best lyric writers on the current scene. Small wonder he's bezzie mates with Jack White and ex-Jellyfish Jason Faulkner.
I ask thee...How can you not fall in love with a bloke who puts pictures of his ginger tom cat on all his albums? More cats in music, I say!
'Feel like Myself Again' is a little slice of genius pie. A definite Monday morning motivator, I played the track on repeat 7 times in one sitting. Every time It played I felt a little bit bouncier, until at last its melody floated me - Violet Beauregarde style - all the way to work.
Larry was a pretty happy boy as we all know, but I reckon Phil Spector would give him a run for his money after hearing 'The Pledge'. Writing a song that does justice to Spector's famous 'wall of sound' is no mean feat, but Benson comes up trumps.
Like me, if at first you don't succeed with this CD try it again. After all, you can't lose anything and you may reap the rewards repeated listenings will bring.
Benson claims, "we are all searching for the Alternative to love". He should try Amazon. It's where I found my copy and I'm jolly glad now that I did.
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on 26 July 2005
I have read a lot of reviews of this CD and almost all of them seem to say that Benson's earlier album 'Lapalco' is better. I have to disagree.
This album is power pop gold. If you are ever feeling down this CD is the answer. It is full of upbeat songs from start to finish that will make your day better. 'Feel Like Myself' is a brilliant track that delivers one of the best pop hooks of the decade. Following that great track are another two greats; the title track 'Alternative to Love' and 'The Pledge'. The latter is reminiscent of the Phil Specter production that resulted in Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds. 'What I'm looking for' is a simple song that is so good it will make you want to go out and buy all his other albums!
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If you don't already own 'Lapalco' buy it. If you do and (rightly) love it, you won't go wrong with this. It seems that Benson is incapable of writing a duff tune and it shows once more here. His voice is as appealing as ever and the compositions are typically always fresh - and surprising in their structure; there's a 'looseness' in the songs that just feels right, yet there's a great deal of musical 'craft' to satisfy most powerpop and Beatles fans.
Production-wise this album seems a lot cleaner than 'Lapalco' (which I'm not altogether sure is a good thing) and don't be fooled by the Jack White connection: I can't stand the White Stripes and thankfully there's nothing on here that approaches the dreadful catarwauling that White and his sister typically indulge in. More tellingly is Brendan's past association with Jason Falkner which, if you know Falkner's work, bears a lot closer resemblance in terms of style and genre (note: if you like B.Benson you'll also love Falkner's stuff. In fact it might even be...better?).
So why not five stars? As another reveiwer says, this is more of a 'grower' than last time I think. That said, 'Lapalco' also took some time to weedle its way into my affections but now that it has I wouldn't hesitate to give it five stars. It's probably the same story with 'The Alternative to Love'.
Incidentally I went to see BB at the Manchester Academy the other week - pretty good ('HAL' was one of the supports and I was impressed with them too. Check them out; they've just released a debut album that's been getting good reviews. Think 'the Thrills' with more bite).
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on 30 September 2011
Ok, so getting out of the way the fact that Benson's power-pop masterpiece 'Lapalco' was pretty much impossible to follow, 'The Alternative to Love' is a solid album in its own right, boasting some stunning songs. It kicks off in great style with 'Spit it Out', a driving, airy rocker with a killer chorus and whirling synths - in fact remarkably similar to Lapalco's opener, 'Tiny Spark', perhaps even surpassing it in terms of songwriting . Though none of the other tracks can keep the pace of the opener, there are riches to be found in 'Cold Hands (Warm Heart)', with it's pretty, McCartney-esque melody and lush, gently shuffling arrangement, emphasizing the retro pop influences present all over the record. The country-tinged title track teases for almost 2 minutes before drifting into a lovely bubblegum-folk chorus, and the sprightly 'Gold Into Straw' re-invigorates the album somewhat after a string of so-so ballads, which unfortunately dominate the middle of the album - light drifting psychedelia is OK for a few minutes, but ultimately serves to dilute Benson's irrepressible sense of melody. That said, 'The Pledge', with its cavernous, Phil Spector on steroids drums, chiming bells, and BIG, OBVIOUS CHORD CHANGES actually sidesteps cliche and ends up as welcome detour into pure 60s fetishization.

However, despite the occasional style shifts, this is not Benson's own personal 'Kid A' moment - the music is power-pop through and through, with the requisite chiming guitars, gentle palm-muting, and angelic harmonies. Such formulaic arrangements would normally fall into the abyss of ultimate blandness under most people's watch, but Benson's sturdy songwriting and attention to detail thankfully prevent this. The Elliot Smith-alike intro to 'Flesh and Bone' and the pleasingly ramshackle closer 'Between Us', which harks back to Benson's earlier work on 'One Mississippi' are both welcome additions - subtle variations on the overall mood without feeling out-of-place or like token experiments in genre.

Lyrically, despite the odd entertaining barb such as 'you give a whole new meaning to the same crap' (on 'Spit it Out'), Benson can come across as too mawkish and earnest. Though it's nice to hear a record so free of cynicism in this modern age, there's only so many ways you can write about being jilted, and Benson can sound contrived and awkward at times, as on the otherwise excellent 'Feel Like Myself', where he intones 'I won't forget/gonna make you regret/the day you were born/I'll leave you forlorn'. However, he creditably avoids slipping into mawkishness throughout the album, dodging the old power-pop cliches even when writing about the same old subjects. In short, he's no Dylan, but the lyrics really aren't the focus here, pretty much serving as something for Benson to hang his irresistible melodies on.

And that's the problem. Benson is apparently incapable of writing a bad melody, and the first thing you come away with after listening is the sense that he could craft great, tuneful pop albums for the next decade or five. Thing is, is he capable of doing more than that? Because in this day and age, when genre-blending artists are commonplace, grinding yourself further into a niche is the last thing you want to do, and it would be sad for Benson not to be more highly recognized for the top-rate pop songwriter this album proves he is.
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on 18 March 2005
"Alternative to Love" is Brendan's 3rd album to date. His first album, "One Mississippi", is a fantastic breath of fresh air with raw energy and emotion felt throughout. His second, "Lapalco", is truly a magnificent album, with the same energy and a marvelous sense of skilled production that you cant fail to enjoy from the first to the last.
So... at last the new material has arrived. Although familiar with a selection of songs heard at his recent 100 Club gig, i was at first disappointed with a few tracks. Comparisons with his past work were inevitably made which left me feeling this album lacked a certain strength in depth. However this one is definitely a "grower". My initial scepticism has been replaced with appreciation of all the songs and the feeling that this really is a fantastic album.
As a Brendan Benson fan i understand it is difficult for me to be objective. Having listened to all his albums i can appreciate the progression that has been made throughout his music. For a music fan to listen to this album without having heard previous records i doubt that it will have the same affect on them, as first hearing "lapalco" had on me. With this being the case i feel unfortunately that Brendan might have to wait for wider success...
...enter Jack White...
Many people who have heard of Brendan Benson (including myself) probably did so through his link with Jack White of the White Stripes. Jack covered one of Brendan's songs (Good to Me - Seven Nation Army B-side) and they have been friends for many years. It has recently come to light that these Detroit buddies have been writing together on and off for some time now and have an album waiting in the wings. This is going to be massive and will surely send Brendan into the limelight. Watch this space!
So until such time as their schedules permit and they have the time to promote and tour their collaboration i suggest locking yourself in a room with Brendan's trilogy of power pop masterpieces and deciding for yourself, you won't be disappointed. This is a singer/songwriter with enormous talent, and whose elevation to renowned rock star status is surely just round the corner.
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on 27 September 2006
this is a very good album by a talented guy! his best album, that is to be debated against lapalco! the only really, no so good song here is the pledge! all the other songs are brilliant catchy and really good pop rock songs! its just a bit diff. he doesnt sound like anybody else. a bit of a niche even?! its all good!
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on 10 March 2005
I had only heard the name Brendan Benson recently, most due to the publicity surrounding him and Jack White(who in the music world is a close 2 God as it comes!)However was plugging the new album on the website and thought it worth a listen....and its fantastic!
I cannot comment on how this album progress's from his earlier work, but even as a stand alone i think its great. The songs are melodic and the lyrics are witty and clever. The album has a great flow, and retains a certain country feel which in todays modern music world is very refreshing. I cannot wait 2 buy this album on its release and urge everyone else to do so, it really is a pleasant suprise.
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on 12 May 2007
This alblum has been playing on my PC, on repeat, all afternoon. The lyrics, the voice, the guitar, drums and electric piano have all engraved themselves into the frontal lobes of my brain. I've enjoyed this album for sometime but this afternoon I've enjoyed it even more...

Brendan is undoubtedly very talented. This recording is as fine a collection of pure power pop masterpieces as you'll ever find. There isn't a duff track here.

"Spit it out" sets the tone perfectly and three tracks later "Alternative to Love" is steadily maintaining things at 'full steam ahead' speed. "The pledge" is actualy, a very good Spector-esque wall of sound number that provides welcome respite - I like it. The last furlong; "Get it together" through to the wonderful "Between us" had me reaching for my air guitar and may actually force me to plug in my 335 and switch on my Vox. Sterling silver stuff. If you like Matthew Sweet, you'll love this.
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