Personnel: Brendan Benson (vocals); Chris Plum, Chris Plum (vocals, harmonica); Faith Gazic, Tiffany Gazic (vocals); Matt Aljian (drums, percussion); Chris Shaw (loops); Courtney Sheedy (vocals); Tchad Blake (synthesizer).
Audio Mixer: Tchad Blake.
Recording information: Le Grand Studio, Detroit, MI.
Brendan Benson's third full-length album is a bold, retro-minded, instant classic. While Benson's previous outings had lots of bright spots, their touches of cheeky humor possibly obscured their brilliance to those not looking closely enough. This time around there's nothing to keep him from the big time--lyrics play second fiddle to tight arrangements, immaculate production, and a deep affinity for the sounds of summery 1970s and '80s pop radio, recalling Big Star, the Cars, and even (gasp) Neil Diamond. The odd sonic flourishes are key here, including an alarm clock on "Spit It Out," a phantom xylophone on the catchy bubble-gum melodrama "Cool Hands (Warm Heart)," and a big flanged bass plodding ominously under the shiny, happy surface of Benson's Paul McCartney-esque vocals on "Biggest Fan." THE ALTERNATIVE TO LOVE expands the Benson sound in all the right directions.
Rolling Stone (p.77) - 3 stars out of 5 - "[Benson's] melodic gifts remain undeniable on this charming third album, which fizzes with a wistful sweetness..."
Spin (p.108) - "He's great with the hook-melody algebra..." - Grade: A-
Uncut (p.110) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Benson's glittering pop songs are descendents of every boy-girl psychodrama from The Beach Boys to Big Star....It's a jubilee of full-fat riffs, nagging hooks and melodies like ornate sugar sculptures."