Album: Brendan Benson, My Old, Familiar Friend (Echo)

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The Independent Culture

Prior to hooking up with Jack White in The Raconteurs, Brendan Benson was a classic case of a cult artist in search of an audience – which is to say, a small coterie of fans treasured his recordings of polite, learned pop, which steadfastly refused to reach a commercial tipping-point.

Judging by My Old, Familiar Friend, that situation is unlikely to alter significantly: like those cult favourites par excellence Big Star, he deals in a form of crossover pop-rock whose pop elements are not quite catchy enough to satisfy pop fans, and whose rock elements are nowhere near bruising enough for hardcore rock fans. It's a situation not helped by his tendency to mix and match 1970s vintage influences in unappealing combinations: the last thing you want to hear while listening to a slight Wings soundalike like the aptly-titled "Gonowhere" is a burst of nasty ELP-style synth; and if you're going to rhyme "thunder and lightning" with "very frightening", as Benson does in "Eyes On the Horizon", you'd better make sure it's used with something approaching the panache of "Bohemian Rhapsody". By far the best track here is his Philly-soul pastiche "Garbage Day", which sticks to its chosen course with no messy, tangential distractions, Benson promising to be there if his girl's heart ever gets binned, "Sifting through what's left, I guess/To sort through the lonely mess".

Download this: Garbage Day, A Whole Lot Better