I suppose this is former-Raconteurs-record-release week. Much to his misfortune, imho, powerpop singer-songwriter Brendan Benson has released his solo record What Kind of World on the exact same day as Jack White’s much-publicized release Blunderbuss.
Benson’s PR team (if he has one) should be fired. The record is released on Benson’s own label, so if this was Benson’s idea, then it’s probably a case of self-sabotage, and I suppose he gets what he deserves. The thing is, the obvious lack of attention Benson is going to get from releasing his record in Jack White’s shadow is a crying shame—because What Kind of World is actually a good album.
The problem here is that people are inevitably going to compare Brendon Benson’s record to Jack White’s (Raconteur to Raconteur, as it were)—and that’s sort of like comparing apples to oranges. The critics apparently like apples more than oranges, because many of them are already panning What Kind of World while they praise Blunderbuss. But these are two different artists who happened to be in the same band for awhile. I like Jack White fine, but I like Benson for completely different reasons. White is this innovative lo-fi rocker, while Benson does more mainstreamish, bluesy radio rock. One’s not better than the other; they’re just different.
So forget about Jack White; let’s look at What Kind of World on its own:
Catchy melodies? Check.
Great, fuzzy guitar riffs? Check.
Original arrangements? Got those, too.
So what’s the problem? I like all those things, and I like my rock and roll with a blues vibe. Not every record has to push the envelope or venture into uncharted waters. Some records you just buy because they are fun to listen to. So I don’t know what the critics’ problem is. Why can’t they just like a record because it’s good music? (One guy even admitted that he hated giving the record a low score because he actually enjoyed listening to it. What the hell? Isn’t that the point??)
So that being said, there’s several lyrics on the record that seem eerily self-prophetic about this whole deal. “Bad For Me” opens with the line: “Here it goes again, another losing streak / Guess I’m on a roll.” And the title track contains the line: “So looked over, so underrated.” I hate to admit it, but Brendon Benson may be playing into this comparison. If nothing else, he has sort of opened the door to the unfair comparisons by nothing more than the timing of his release. If he’d put this off maybe two weeks to a month, I doubt What Kind of World would have received such a tepid response. At any rate, I think that response is undeserved. Buy the record and listen to it; you’ll have a good time with it. Promise.
ALBUM RATING: 4 Stars (out of five)