CD Review of Phobia by Breaking Benjamin

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Released: 2006
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For those of you who feel that this corporate alternative rock genre should go take a long walk off a short pier, Breaking Benjamin’s latest, Phobia, is going to sound like everything else crowding your radio airwaves these days. But for the rest of you who keep buying this stuff, you’re going to take a liking to Phobia. And you’re going to like it because, frankly, it’s got some really good songs. It’s also consistent with what has brought this band the modest success it has enjoyed on two previous releases. Phobia is a bit more polished than Breaking Benjamin’s earlier stuff, but still has the strong melodies and hooks that they’ve become known for.

“The Diary of Jane” is about as catchy as anything this band has ever done, but the real beauty of Breaking Benjamin is when they add dark flavors akin to the grunge movement of the nineties. That is evident on tracks like “Breath” and the riffy “Evil Angel.” “You” and “Here We Are” are the kind of songs we can all do without – it’s like Breaking Benjamin trying to be Vertical Horizon, and it just comes off as wussy alt/rock. Stick to the dark stuff, guys. “Dance with Me” is not going to remind anyone of the Orleans song of the seventies. In fact, while it’s quite possibly the most radio friendly song in this set, it still has the ballsy hooks this band has become adept at delivering. There is also a bonus track, an acoustic version of “The Diary of Jane,” featuring Sebastian Davin of Octone band Dropping Daylight on piano, and proves that you don’t need all those guitars if a song is strong enough to stand on its own.

With Breaking Benjamin and other bands like them, sometimes it sounds like the guitars and vocals have been thrown into a blender, and the result that is spewed out is something of a rock smoothie. Yes, corporate rock bands like this have become something of a Starbucks phenomenon – you can find them in every market, always sounding/tasting the same. But you definitely can’t deny that the stuff tastes/sounds good. That, and when a band keeps delivering solid material, they’re going to sell records and they’re going to keep their fans happy.

~Mike Farley