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Brendan Benson: A Futile Plea For Silence

When The Raconteurs first emerged as a high-profile side project for The White Stripes' Jack White, the new band promised to shine a light on one of its lesser-known members: singer-songwriter Brendan Benson. Power-pop aficionados — and virtually no one else — knew Benson for his string of timeless and wonderful solo albums (One Mississippi, et al), and were only too happy to share him with the world.

Benson remains best known for his Raconteurs work, but he's still saving his best songs for solo albums like the zippy and fantastic My Old, Familiar Friend, which seems to emerge from about four eras of pop-rock at once. Crisp and relentlessly catchy, the album practically oozes hooks, mixing cockeyed love songs with sublime kiss-off anthems like the irresistible "Don't Wanna Talk."

For all its exasperated pleas for silence, "Don't Wanna Talk" reveals a few extra layers to the wrecked relationship at its core: "You've proven to be a hard habit to kick," Benson sings in between choruses wherein he replaces "La la" with "Lie lie." That bit of futile longing gives the song a bit of heft to go with its irresistible chant-along choruses. By the end, it's small wonder that he (and we) will inevitably come back for more.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)