Album Review Brendan Benson - Low Key4 Stars
‘Low Key’ lives up to its name by being lighter, more free-flowing. It’s all the better for it.
If there’s one thing this decade has offered, it’s an abundance of thinking time. And where for some that’s led to an almost blinkered idea of the road ahead, for Brendan Benson, it seems to have done the opposite. It can’t be easy existing in the shadow of a more famous name: you can be twice Gold-certified singer-songwriter Niall Horan, say, but there’s always a Harry Styles. But where his past releases – successful by most artists’ gauge - occasionally gave off a mild air of feeling the need to assert his own distinct identity, ‘Low Key’ lives up to its name by being lighter, more free-flowing. It’s all the better for it. While the McCartney to another’s Lennon may be a comparison beyond cliche, Brendan does, after all, bring the melodic, ballad-driven side to The Raconteurs. And there’s both something Macca-esque about the “oohs” on ‘People Grow Apart’ - a heartland rock number that possesses a repetitive full circle of its title that’d make Stewart Lee proud – and the track’s ability to skirt the line of cringe. It doesn’t work, until it does. The piano-led ‘I Missed The Plane’ offers the most Raconteurs-like moment of the record, but where ‘Low Key’ gets really interesting is ultimately where Brendan isn’t worried about being Brendan at all. Opener ‘Ain’t No Good’ uses a drivetime radio pop palette to showcase his flair for natural pop songwriting. Then there’s ultimate standout ‘All In’. While its opening line of “I’m a keep doing my thing regardless” seems to echo the sentiment of ‘Low Key’ as a whole, the track brims with the kind of awkward confidence Rivers Cuomo is famed for; whether it’s the repeated telephone impressions for a “who’s calling” response, rhyming “lonely self” with “lonely self,” or such gems as “Peter Pan / Neverland / Bought some land / That’s what’s up” and “This is not up for debate / No matter what I’m a get me some cake.” Do we know what he means? Not at all. Is it a joy to hear him sing it anyway? Yes, it is.
Brendan Benson - Dear Life
His most experimental release to date.