Brendan Benson
w/ Keane
Mon May 9, Paramount Theater, 8 pm, $26.50 adv/ $28.50 DOS.

On FIrst listen, Brendan Benson's Jack White-produced The Alternative to Love is pure, sweet power pop, telling unabashed stories of love. But peel away the shiny radio-ready layers and you'll see Benson and company dug through pop rock's historical junkyard so thoroughly, they came out with only the most interesting pieces. Incorporating McCartney/ Lennon-esque vocal interplay, Michael Jackson-style funk grooves, unstoppable Weezer-like hooks, and Pavement-ish crash and crunch, The Alternative to Love (V2) is eclectic yet coheres gracefully thanks to Benson's lovable, run-together lyrical flow and honest passion throughout.

The infectious "Feel Like Myself" stomps around with an attitude that wants both revenge and survival: "I was a sad and sorry case/But I turned about face/And I feel great/I'm gonna run/And I won't break/For nothin' and no one/Just wait/'Til I feel like myself again," Benson sings with conviction. The title track rides the best get-down-and-dirty bass line on the album on its quest to make sense of the complex beast that is a love relationship.

Dominated by huge, dramatic drum crashes that recall many of the heartbeat moments of the Shangri-La's, "Pledge," as the name implies, promises to be true and good to a lover while guitars jangle and tambourines shimmer in the back room. Featuring delicate piano playing and intimate coos, "Biggest Fan" begins as a fragile, pleading cut that breaks into fuller arrangements, increasing the urgency of the pleads. The beautiful R&B-flavored "Flesh and Bone" travels with a lump in its throat as it aches over lost love while the gritty closer, "Between Us," is strutting punk rock that, still subject to Benson's heart-on-the-sleeve approach, stays soft.

While much of Benson's buzz has been built on White's involvement, The Alternative to Love's merits really derive from Benson's idiosyncratic knack for pop songcraft and charming willingness to open his heart and let us all in.

editor@thestranger.com

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