Brendan Benson’s My Old, Familiar Friend is a bit too familiar

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It’s a good thing I’m listening to this album in the summer, because otherwise I’d be much harsher – it just seems to fit a summer mood, and not much else. My Old, Familiar Friend is an apt title, as Benson sounds in-line with his previous work (much of this material is, in fact, taken from several earlier demos.) Please note in advance: I’m generally a Benson fan – he’s created some of this decade’s finest power-pop. But what we’re getting here is too much of the same. And while I wasn’t expecting to feel this way, it gets pretty damn tiresome. Nice for a sunny day and certainly fun car-riding music, but repeated listens are pretty much a no-go.

The first two tracks, “A Whole Lot Better” and “Eyes On The Horizon”, are practically splitting images of each other, with the same synthy background and layered Benson vocal harmonies. Poppy vocal harmonies. VERY poppy. Too much so, actually, – where’s the stripped down sound from some of Benson’s best work, like “What I’m Looking For” (from The Alternative to Love)? We get a little bit of it on songs like “Gonowhere” (I could pretty much sum up the review with this song title) and “You Make A Fool Out Of Me”, but the rest of the album is sheer heavy-hitting pop. I’d be able to withstand it if there were some aspects that stood out on each track, but it’s essentially a mix of several one-hit (to my ears) wonders. The classic melodies are pleasant, Benson’s voice is catchy (if not whiny), but where’s the variety?

Sticking to a formula can work within some styles of music, but it can’t be taken so literally as “sticking to the formula on every song”. If we’re expected to sit down and enjoy an album more than a handful of times, I’ll be looking for added enrichment. Frustratingly (and disappointingly) enough, My Old, Familiar Friend doesn’t cooperate.

Brendan Benson – “You Make A Fool Out Of Me” [MP3]

Brendan Benson – “Gonowhere” [MP3]

Purchase My Old, Familiar Friend

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