Album Review

My Old Familiar Friend

My Old Familiar Friend

by Brendan Benson

7.2 / 10
14th October 2009

Reviewed by Courtney Sanders

When you’re sort of first discovering that Detroit (at least as a starting point) rock ‘n roll scene, you discover The White Stripes, then The Von Bondies (and then Jason Stolsteimer and Jack Whites brawl) and then The Greenhornes, then Brendon Benson, the final piece in the Raconteurs puzzle. He doesn’t fit perfectly, but mashes in there pretty nicely nonetheless in a breath-of-fresh air kind of way, and maybe even in a puzzle sense he’s the corner or something - you know, holding them all together with lyrical, songwriting and straightforward pop abilities.

Benson’s solo career has been abit AWOL of late. Having been a founding member and releasing two massive albums with White’s aforementioned supergroup, Benson gave lyrical countenance and subtle emotive elements to a group that’s let face it, without Benson would merely be a sum of it’s blues rock parts – ‘Hands,’ great track, ‘Intimate Secretary’, let’s do this.

Anyway, new album, and how appropriate that it’s called My Old Familiar Friend. Benson is back to his ‘Cold Hands Warm Heart’ best (how cute is this song and the video clip with the stickmen and then they die and then there’s the people with the massive heads and they mock each other even though they are the same) with a thirteen track album about life’s failures and (limited) successes and loves failures and non existent, it would seem in Bensons life, successes.

Only in The Raconteurs would Benson be considered the most subtle or introverted member. My Old Familiar Friend is actually quite aggressive pop. It’s traditional verse / chorus pop writing, there’s guitars and drums and bass and his lyrics are overt. But it’s those points of differentiation that demonstrate integrity that make you stop and go ‘aww’ rather than ‘eww’. Like that extended subtle reverb on his lyrics (“I took the lonnng way hommme” on track six – perfect accompaniment to the words) that extend the end of each phrase just past the correct musical point. That synthesizer that is the genuine bass through many of the tracks and also the skilled piano that slinks its way throughout the album as the emotional highs and lows come and go and disappear completely to make way for the occasional acoustic guitar ballad. It’s these things, worked perfectly into the context of each songs lyrical countenance that make you understand the thorough and complete process each goes through. (which in turn is usually followed up by an incredibly Raconteurs-esque Rock. Track anyway). Familiar friends are usually best, and in Bensons case definitely so.

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