I was quite surprised to see a new album from Brendan Benson, so soon after 2012's "What Kind Of World", an album that I thought was decent, but certainly not one of his best. I then read that it was the product of compiling the results from an acclaimed monthly singles project and became very interested to hear it. When it finally rattled through my letter box and I listened to it for the first time, I thought it was pretty good, but nothing that special. A few listens later and the songs have really leaped out at me, it's an excellent album! Many people, when speaking about Benson, speak about the Raconteurs, but I'd already bought a few albums of his before he got together with Jack White for a couple of superb albums and my favourites so far are "Lapalco" (2002) and "My Old, Familiar Friend" (2009), but, seeing as the other two are pretty great too, there's no such thing as a bad album by Brendan. He has this innate melodic indie-pop sensibility that shines through on any project he works on, including co-writing a few songs with Jake Bugg on his rather fantastic latest album, "Shangri La".
There are plenty of brilliant songs on this indie/powerpop gem. The album kicks off brightly with the catchy "It's Your Choice", which features a bagpipe-like sound to good effect, "I Don't Wanna See You Anymore" oozes class, with bursts of brass, organ and a beautifully pained vocal from Brendan and "I'll Never Tell" is a melodic beauty with a supremely memorable chorus. "She's Trying To Poison Me" is another classic composition, a slightly dark, humorous tale where the music alternates between jaunty and dreamy and which sees Benson slightly bemused about why he's putting up with this woman trying to kill him: "She's not exactly the girl of my dreams". "Purely Automatic" is a corker of a song and the sweet, waltz-time "Oh My Love" is one of those songs that sounds like you've known it for years. The two tracks that finish the album off, the gorgeously melancholy "Swimming" and the aptly named blues-influenced "Red White and Blues" ensure that "You Were Right" finishes the album as strongly as it began.
As you may expect, as this is the result of a series of singles released in quick succession (an idea that Ash also successfully realised with the excellent, but perhaps slightly overstretched, "A-Z" project in 2009-2010), the music is immediate, laden with hooks and is of a consistently high quality all of the way through. Although this isn't my favourite release by Brendan, it has probably taken number three spot of his solo albums, behind my two existing favourites. I could, of course, go on about how much he is under-appreciated and how he should be a household name, but for anyone who knows Brendan and loves his music, that really is a given. I doubt that this low-key release will do the trick, but if there was any justice in the world, it would sell by the bucket load.
Brendan Benson's latest record MUST establish him as a household name? Well perhaps not but this excellent new record is that rare beast a pop record with no filler. Benson's ability to write 3-4 minute pop songs with hooks, melodies and astute lyrics is now putting him in the premier league. His outing with The Racontuers was a success but as a solo artist is where Brendan should be really making his name. BUY IT!
It's not since getting into Elliott Smith that I've had a similar experience. I've known of BB for a bit and heard a few things but this is the first album by an artist for quite a while that I have played end to end twice in succession and have to pull myself away to say "now for something else". Recommended, with Rejuvenate Me and I'll Never Tell being personal favourites. Give it a go. Like the cover too.