Detroit's Brendan Benson is probably best known for his membership of one of Jack White's more successful side projects, The Raconteurs.
It was he, more so than White, who helped imbue the band's hard-rocking instincts with a classic pop sensibility.
Prior to joining his buddy, Benson had been honing his skills as a power-pop songwriter of some distinction.
He has brought out three albums to date, with the second one, Lapalco, among the most under-appreciated releases of the decade. That's high praise — but don't just take my word for it: take a listen to songs such as Metarie, Folk Singer and Pleasure Seeker for proof.
This fourth album — written and recorded around the same time as the second Raconteurs record was being made — is not as consistently great as Lapalco, but it provides further evidence that Brendan Benson has a knack for knocking out tunes that, once heard, are difficult to forget.
With lush, Bacharach-esque orchestration, Garbage Day sounds like a lost gem from the 1960s as Benson lays relationship troubles bare: “If she throws her heart away/I'll be there on garbage day/To sift through what's left I guess/To sort through the loneliness.” Forget about MacArthur Park, this could have been an even bigger hit for Richard Harris.
The acoustic-guitar-led You Make A Fool Out of Me is typical of Benson's fondness for delving into the heat of a row for his lyrical inspiration. “There's only so much I can take/ When you point out my every mistake/ You show me up now/ So everyone can see/You make a fool out of me.”
The album is laden with cracking songs — listen to the Lemonheads-meets-Crowded House composition, Misery. Typical of Benson, he sings of unbridled unhappiness, but wraps it in the sweetest of melodies.
Despite his propensity for the melancholy — his old, familiar friend — Benson is such a charming songwriter, an inimitable chronicler of life's minutiae, that his songs never feel self-indulgent or forced.
With songs as memorable as these, long may his misery continue.
Burn it: Garbage Day; Misery; Gonowhere