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BRENDAN BENSON

My Old Familiar Friend (6/10)

 

With the new University year fast approaching, the time is right to unleash a new and potentially deadly drinking game onto the world.  Introducing to you, The Brendan Benson Rhyming Couplet Extravaganza.  The rules are simple;

 

1)      Get a copy of ‘My Old, Familiar Friend,’ the fourth album from Brendan Benson. 

2)      Gather some friends and some booze

3)      Insert CD

4)      Pause the song at the end of randomly selected lines.  Each player must shout out how they expect the next line to end.  If you’re right (and you most probably will be – drink!

 

Test runs of this game have resulted in heavy amounts of drunkenness.  BB is the Beatles side of the Raconteurs, and if you’ve followed their career you can probably work out which lyrics he’s been involved in.  He has an ear for the tried and tested but bloody catchy pop tune, the very instant foot-stomping, maybe even a dance in a club kind of tune.  He could soundtrack a million rom-coms, whilst still managing to appeal to the indie boys. 

 

That this album is called ‘My Old, Familiar Friend’ is about right.  It’s hard to say that he’s stretched his range from previous albums, albeit there are added strings to this album and a slightly fuller sound.  The compositions are a little more complex and the production is the slickest to date; some of these songs are his most immediate and it does feel like business as usual in a pleasurable.  Littered with potential singles (beyond first choice ‘Feel Like Taking You Home,’ ‘Poised and Ready,’ ‘Garbage Day’ and the title track are all worthy classics in the making). 

 

Brendan Benson could be the solo artist for the single but optimistic, the slightly rubbish and hard to live with male.  He’s self-deprecating in a Nick Hornby novel kind of way and remains affable throughout his career.

The problem is that the lyrics – in places – make me want to die inside and make up drinking games based on rhyming couplets.  Here goes;

 

‘Feel Like Taking You Home’ – ‘Something’s not right, I’m overcome with fear…’

 

PAUSE….

 

Guesses please!

 

“Near?”

“Beer?”

 

PLAY…

 

“Should have stayed home tonight, need to get out of here.”

 

Here, of course.  Close. 

 

It’s an ominous and kind of sexy song that builds throughout and remains in your head after the first listen.  The cold water is the lyrics, and with BB it’s always the lyrics (fast, slow, last, know, cares, stairs).  Elsewhere you can find “You’ve got a lot to give, you’ve got a life to live” (‘Gonowhere’), which conjures up the slightly tragic image of a 38 year old man sat in a room somewhere, pen dangling thoughtfully from lips, pondering on a potential sentence to rhyme with the world ‘alone.’  Will it be phone?  What about bone?  Or can we get away with home?

 

You can expect to lose half of your team of merry drinkers during ‘Don’t Wanna Talk’ (grip, slack, whip, black), and by the end of the album if they haven’t been wounded by the drinking, the cliché overload should finish off any stragglers. 

 

The sad thing is the quality of the tunes is really very good.  Brendan Benson has a command over the pop song, creating in many places some storming numbers performed well by him and his band.  There’s a nice mix of fast and slow songs, and a clear desire to step away from being a solo artist.  In particular, the prominence of keyboard all over this album is notable.  The ideas here aren’t startlingly original, but cringe factor aside, there are many potential breakthrough hits tucked away on here. The Raconteurs experience has definitely taught him some lessons, but the lyrics never quite rise above the parapet of Primary School poetry.  You can even see how they started as good ideas, but faltered in the name of rhyming ease.

 

So enjoy the songs, try not to dwell on the lyrics and turn this into a fun way of getting leathered with your friends.