CD Review of A Love Extreme by Benji Hughes
Recommended if you like
Beck, Jon Brion, Eels
Label
New West
Benji Hughes:
A Love Extreme

Reviewed by David Medsker

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N
o one wants to say it, but we’re all thinking it: we’re starting to get a little bored with Beck. He’s still doing that quirky pastiche thing – and still doing it well – but it doesn’t feel like he’s having fun anymore. Or is it us? Maybe he’s still having a blast making his music, but we’re the ones who have changed, our hearts now cold to his funky-white-boy ways.

This makes the arrival of A Love Extreme, the double-album debut (when was the last time that happened?) from Benji Hughes, that much sweeter. This is not to say that Hughes is a Beck knock-off, mind you; while they share an affinity for throwing an acoustic guitar at a wall of electronic percussion, Hughes is more of a storyteller than stream-of-consciousness rambler, with a perverse sense of humor to boot. It veers too close to Ween-like juvenilism at times, but he makes up for it with hooks large enough to land a whale. Not exactly what you’d expect from a guy that looks like a long-lost Allman Brother. Or Paul Davis, take your pick.

Benji HughesThe first disc – clocking in at just over 30 minutes – is the more hit-friendly of the two. “Why Do These Parties Always End the Same Way?” is the clear standout, an amusing, beat driven sequel of sorts to “Mama Told Me Not to Come” (Wolfgang Press version, please). “You Stood Me Up” has a titanic, falsetto-drenched chorus, while “Waiting for an Invitation” uses a sweet melody to frame a spiteful lyric. Pity that the second disc doesn’t keep the momentum going; Hughes gets a little too cute for his own good on Guided-by-Voices-ish mini-songs like “The Mummy” and “I Went with Some Friends to See the Flaming Lips.” Coming after gorgeous tracks like “Even If” and “So Well,” the goofy songs are just grating. A five-star album is floating within these 25 songs, and while New West should be commended for giving a new artist the chance to make his debut in such atypical style, a few cuts would have made a world of difference.

But we’re splitting hairs. A Love Extreme is a remarkable debut by a versatile and gifted talent. Anyone who admires Beck’s Modern Guilt more than they like it – admit it, something’s missing on his albums of late – would be wise to look into Hughes at once. This will be a cult classic before too long.

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