It’s no secret Brendan Benson plays in the shadow of Jack White within The Raconteurs, so it’s unfortunate timing that his on/off bandmate is releasing his highly anticipated debut solo album (ahem, Blunderbuss) the same week as he unleashes his fifth and latest LP, What Kind of World. But through ’70s power pop and honey-soaked, AM radio vocals, Benson offers a worthy argument to view him as a peer rather than a protégé to Mr. White. It’s also just in time for highway cruising with the windows down, but that’s besides the point.
With 12 tracks to absorb, Benson likely won’t garner many new fans, but he’s sure to be embraced by his own. On the album’s titular number, the songwriter channels the melodic pop of Joe Pernice before it shifts into a guitar-driven anthem carrying a soaring chorus (“What kind of world/You take me apart/Before I can start”). Similar ’70s ballads and power pop hits follow, especially album highlight “Bad for Me”, which works off a sugary-sweet melody, the likes of which hasn’t been written since Jellyfish in the early ’90s. Then later on, he filters the power pop through grunge-crusted guitars on “Thru the Ceiling”, and channels Todd Rundgren amidst the bedroom-pop contemplation “No One Else but You”, a true watermark for Benson’s pipes.
From time to time, it’s easy to unwind and spin some Todd Rundgren, The Raspberries, Cheap Trick, or any of the other classic artists Benson borrows from here to craft his album. However, if that sort of nostalgic listen works for you, then What Kind of World should be a pleasant surprise, and no doubt your musical companion this season.
Essential Tracks: “Thru the Ceiling”, “No One Else but You”, and “Bad for Me”