Many people when seeing the name Brendan Benson will have that feeling of 'I know that name, but where from?". Then eventually some of them will think "Oh, I know, he was in The Raconteurs with Jack White". Now whilst this is certainly true, the fact is that he actually co-founded The Raconteurs and is arguably responsible for some of the best songs that band produced. More importantly, he is also a solo artist and "You Were Right" is actually his sixth solo album.
As a solo artist, he has amassed a brilliant back catalogue of songs that are a broad mixture of singer/songwriter, Americana and Power Pop. He has never developed the high profile of artists such as Ryan Adams but instead has focused on the quality of his musicianship. This has meant that every one of his albums has met with enthusiastic praise from both critics and, most importantly, his fans. The release of his latest album "You Were Right", therefore, has a lot to live up to but, not surprisingly, Brendan is up to the challenge.
The album kicks off with "It's Your Choice", which is an instant hit of pure pop joy that's like the sun coming up in the morning. It's a laid back, effortlessly cool song that is really just classic Brendan Benson. It is suitably followed up by "Rejuvenate Me which picks up the beat a bit but still has that classic power pop feel. The next couple of tracks actually bring to mind one of those other bands which are sadly not as well known a they should be, Jellyfish. It has a similar hint of a sixties, breezy feel but perhaps without their quirkiness. In fact, on "Diamond" the sound is more like the post Jellyfish band, Umajets as it has a more of a chill out in the sun feel to it. The ability to deliver a song with this kind of laid back/effortless feel is something which so many bands/artists struggle with.
The key to Brendan's music is that it always sounds heartfelt and true. This is certainly evident on "I Don't Wanna See You Anymore", which is a big ballad complete with horns and organ. There will be many a post break up tear shed, whilst downing a bottle of wine and listening to this song. It achieves the very difficult task of creating an emotional song with a real soul and not falling in to the 'cheesy' sound trap. We are, however, soon back in to the world of pure pop. "Swallow You Whole" begins with a kind of ragtime feel and then moves in to a Beatles esque song. In fact, many of the songs have that "Macca" written pop sensibility all over them. This includes "She's Trying To Poison Me" which not only has a great title but also great lyrics which really contrast with the light hearted feel of the song. This really is a pop gem and is certainly one of the best songs on the album.
"Purely Automatic" has an initial intro which is really reminiscent of Bowie's "Jean Genie" before again moving on to a melodic groove that will gradually sink in to your sub conscience. This is equally true of so many songs on the album, where it is easy just to describe them as 'quintessential' Brendan Benson. Anyone who has seen Brendan live will realise that he has a style and sound which means that each time you hear one of his songs being played, it instantly makes you think that's your favourite Brendan Benson song.
The album comes to a conclusion with "Oh My Love" which is another song of lost love. It is a reminder that instead of just getting caught up in the sound of the song, that it is also important to listen to the lyrics where Benson is a great song writer and lyricist. Often , like on this final track, these lyrics are wrapped up in a delightful melody.
It really is sad to think that Brendan Benson will to many people be known as that guy in The Raconteurs with Jack White. Anyone who knows his solo stuff will understand that there is so much more to him that that. In fact, very few artists in recent years have been able to match his skills for carefully crafted, quality, adult pop songs. This album just adds another whole set of songs to that list.
Hopefully, it will also present us with the chance to hear the songs in a live environment. Brendan undertook a few dates in the UK earlier this year but hopefully we will see him back soon. He is fantastic in a live environment and as he plays each song from his vast catalogue you will be discovering a new lost favourite. So make sure you get out there and buy this album so that he has reason to visit these shores again soon.
Review by Paul Hastings