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Brendan Benson – The Alternative To Love

“What can you show me that I haven’t already seen before…What can you say now that I haven’t heard a million times before? / What can you play now that’ll have me in tears and screaming for more?”

Whenever I listen to new music these questions always go through my brain, either consciously or subconsciously. The Crayola box sits quietly with all its primary colors, just waiting to see how the musician will cross one with another, blend orange and yellow, throw in specs of blue or completely melt down the green into a bubbling pool.


These questions also played in the mind of Brendan Benson as he wrote “Them and Me” off his latest CD, The Alternative To Love, washed in Cerulean, dripping with Scarlet, and wrapped up in Vivid Violet.

The other night I got sucked into “13 Going On 30” where the ode to Ms. Benatar, “Love is a Battlefield” was this metaphor was used to describe the lead actress’ plight. While this Hollywood fantasy was cute yet cliché, the observation is true. Benson has just the poison pen to write between the lines of burning hurt and pitiful, biting sarcasm and “been there” anger, and other emotional colors of the rainbow.

Musically he’s all over the board, from The Jam meets The Platters intros to the catchy songwriter pop of Michael Penn or Nick Heyward, along with the jangle and echoed affects of Deathray Davies. There is such an attention to detail in every song, which you feel as each line is etched delicately with a magnifying glass. Benson’s perfectionist stance also has him writing each guitar, drum and keyboard track while envisioning the entire ensemble on stage.

“Last Man Standing” could be anyone’s song, which makes it so appealing. It’s okay to talk about love because his take is not weeping willow tears or walks on the beach with your online soulmate. Benson captures those thoughts that run through your brain as you endure an endless conference call or walk down the grocery aisle with couples surrounding you, the observation of one’s life and seeing people settle for the typical mold, and all the while acknowledging that “I don’t know what I’m looking for but I know that I just wanna look some more.”

Brendan Benson’s got the box of crayons in a stir, molded into new colors that remind this writer of why I love what I do.


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