Album Reviews: The Alternative to Love by Brendan BensonYou might not have heard of Brendan Benson and that used to be unacceptable. His debut, One Mississippi, was one of the great lost treasures of the '90s. However, The Alternative to Love is somewhat anemic in comparison to the full blooded tempests of his previous blasts. If he could get more than three albums done in nine years, this would be okay. If we knew there was another release to look forward to in a year or two, we could deal. But The Alternative to Love is not going to tide fans over for another three years.
Perhaps it would be unfair or premature to blame this album’s lack of spark on the absence of his former writing partner, Jason Falkner, but it’s an obvious difference here. Both Lapalco and One Mississippi featured the co-songwriting talents of Mr. Falkner, whose own solo career has had some time gaps, too. Has Benson lost his muse? Maybe that’s going a bit too far; we’ve heard stellar songs not involving Jason Falkner ("You’re Quiet", "Sitting Pretty").
And this is still a good batch of tunes. Even Benson’s sub par material is better than your average roll across the radio dial. "The Pledge" is a wonderful whipping cream dollop of Phil Spector sounds. It wouldn’t sound out of place on a new Marah or Chris Mills album either. "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)" and "What I’m Looking For" could be enough to make him a household name anyway. But if you want to hear why Brendan Benson should be big, check out One Mississippi. - Jeff Kamin