Shifting between rhythms, styles and tones, Brendan creates a sparkling collection of...
Rod Thomas 2005-03-21
Thank God! Just as the amount of angular indie becomes unbearable, Brendan Benson's new album arrives as a welcome break from a seemingly unending supply of "The..." bands and NME front-pagers. Hopefully, news of his affiliation with Jack White has made a few people pay attention, but given the chance, The Alternative To Love is sure to prove that he needs no celebrities to prove his worth.
Brighter and more accessible than previous LP Lapalco, and superbly ignorant of what's "cool" in music these days, key tracks on this record appear to realise the potential previously suggested by "Metarie" or "Tiny Spark". "Cold Hands Warm Heart", with its gorgeous, swirling backdrop and fantastic riff, and even more so, the outstanding "Alternative To Love" show how his talent has clearly snowballed between albums. Starting off as a simple guitar number, this track makes a seamless transition into an impossibly funky, mesmerising album highlight.
Shifting between rhythms, styles and tones, Brendan creates a sparkling collection of songs, both coherent and diverse enough to hold interest. Among a roster of superb tracks, only one stands out as a rogue dud. The confusing "Pledge Of Allegiance" begins and continues exactly like vintage classic "And Then He Kissed Me". While not particularly bad, it weakens an otherwise brilliant album. Occasionally, some lyrics jar - such as 'you look like a dove, something sent from above' - but on the whole, he proves himself a witty and refreshingly grounded lyricist.
Overall, The Alternative To Love is an album that sounds natural, where Brendan sounds like he's having a great time recording it. Fresh and vibrant, it's a welcome alternative to the ever so tiresome indie soudalikes circulating these days. There's certainly a place for this record in the hearts of music lovers who appreciate a (mostly) great lyricist, great musician and superb singer whose songs can be uplifting even at their most introspective.