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A return to power pop

Brendan Benson

Brendan Benson - The Alternative To Love
(V2 Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 25, 2005

Review by Tony Bonyata

While Brendan Benson may not like the singer / songwriter label that's so often attached to his name, with clever lyrics (most noticeably about love and heartbreak), catchy pop compositions and live shows that often features the singer performing alone with his guitar, it's a hard label to shake. (Never mind that he had also released a four-song CD entitled Folk Singer EP a few years back.)
Benson got his first big break a few years ago touring as the opening act for fellow Detroit duo The White Stripes, but instead of riding the Detroit garage-rock gravy train Benson instead has stayed true to his pop rock intuitions. (Even so, Benson and The White Stripes' Jack White have swapped songs - Benson performing White's tender song "You've Got Her In Your Pocket" years before White put it to wax, and The White Stripes recording a version of Benson's "Good To Me" last year.)
On the Detroit-by-way-of-Louisiana musician's third full length release, The Alternative To Love, Benson again revisits the Beatle-esque pop from his 2002 effort Lapalco, only this time around it's even a bit sunnier and more immediate.
Like his previous efforts Benson tackles all of the musical duties himself - overdubbing twin guitars, swirling keys and lush harmonies. And, like his previous efforts, this one-man-band comes off sounding as organically natural as a tight-knit group of five.
Warm harmonies and jaunty rhythms abound on both the charming title track and "What I'm Looking For," while songs such as the guitar-driven opening number and first single "Spit It Out," "Gold Into Straw" and "Get It Together" are flexed with whip-smart hooks and indelible melodies that proves how adept this artist is at cranking out near-perfect power-pop songs.
On the forthcoming follow-up single "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)" Benson coos over a haunting, yet light-hearted melody that (if radio programmers knew their stuff like they did thirty years ago) should carry the number directly into the top of the charts. Ditto for the undeniable "Feel Like Myself," complete with a synth line straight out of The Cars' backseat and vocal hook guaranteed to stay with you for days.
While singer/songwriter, power-popster and indie-rocker all apply, The Alternative To Love showcases Benson, more than anything else, as an extremely gifted and versatile artist.

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