Hopeful, harmony-drenched power-pop from well-connected lovemeister...
Like a three-legged dog, no-one has a bad thing to say about Brendan Benson. The Detroit-based singer counts Beck, Jack White and The Flaming Lips among his best mates and musical admirers, mainly because he excels at making records that are instantly likeable. Benson’s third album isn’t going to do much to change this state of affairs. As warm as the itchiest of thermals and as textured as the most colourful of patchwork quilts, ‘The Alternative To Love’ is less an album than an ear snuggle. This is a lovely record.
Yes, that’s right: lovely. Normally the use of such a word would send us fleeing to the section of HMV marked ‘S Cunt’ in search of potty-mouthed thrills. But with ‘The Alternative To Love’, Benson has constructed a crib of audio comfort and musical solace. This is a record as naïvely and passionately optimistic as a West Brom season ticket holder, and as brave as the noblest of mountain explorers.
‘Spit It Out’ is full of surf-rock thrills, the multiple harmonies piled on the song’s topside tilting it in the direction of being the most caustic summer anthem ever penned. Choice cut ‘Feel Like Myself’ sounds like Neil Young being pushed down the stairs by Brian Wilson at the old rockers’ retirement home. But it’s ‘The Pledge’, a Motown-infused stomp of impeccable aceness that underlines the worthiness of Benson’s brilliance; the song’s Spector-y sheen making it sound righteous, impassioned and alert.
Best of all is the way that Benson articulates the sadness that infuses the record with a cheeky sobriety; choruses surge, guitars shimmer and songs are repeatedly taken the extra mile, pitching them into more hopeful, joyous territory. ‘The Alternative To Love’ is final proof that Brendan Benson is brave, noble, wise and strong. There’s really not a bad thing you could say about him.