Welcome To The Jungle
By: Eric Greenwood
Benett's syrupy, girlish voice has garnered her a small legion of fans in the twee-pop world since her work with Charles Brown Superstar in the mid-1990's. Her solo output is still just as sickly sweet but, perhaps, more adventurous than her former indie rock band's ever was, as it incorporates spaced-out guitars, moog, harpsichord, manipulated tape samples, viola, and piano, among others. Welcome To The Jungle is her second solo album, following her 1999 debut, So You're Not Coming Over, both of which were created with producer Tom Grimley (Beck, The Rentals). The focal point is clearly Benett's crystalline voice, which is surrounded by oddball instrumentation and an erratic lo-fi aesthetic.
I'm not sure I understand the "underground Britney Spears" tag that follows Benett around in her press, but that's neither here nor there. Her voice will undoubtedly annoy some, as it has a polarizing cadence. You'll either love it or hate it. It's the aural equivalent of injecting glucose straight into your veins. I must admit that an entire album's worth of it is almost enough to make me want to listen to nothing but Swedish hardcore for a month. But don't get the wrong idea; some of these songs are undeniably catchy- just in small doses. The five-minute opener, "Don't Look For Me", almost pushed me over the edge, but the infectious pop of "Must Be The Whiskey" pulled me right back in.
"All Of Me" is equally catchy with jangly, fuzzy guitars, drum samples, and, of course, Benett's double-tracked voice to add more sugar to the mix. The noisy freak-out midway through the song is both unexpected and unnecessary, as it derails the song's momentum. The chorus is so irresistible that such digressions fail to leave a negative impression. Unlistenable, instrumental interludes such as "My Death March", however, do indeed leave a lasting bad taste. It's the only song written and performed by Benett by herself, and I hope that doesn't mean she's helpless when left to her own devices. It's the type of crummy throwaway that's best left to bedroom experimentation.
I know there are factions of people that write off twee pop as too derivative and too self-referential, but I say a good song is a good song, regardless of who writes it and what genre it's in (actually, I'm paraphrasing Johnny Rotten because I can't remember the exact quotation). Indie rock tends to thrive on elitism, and it's ok to go through that phase (in college) as long as you can come out the other side. Being able to appreciate both Journey and Fushitusha without hesitation or embarrassment when you are twenty-five is what being a fan of music is all about. That said, Benett is not the best of her genre, but she has a few good tunes under her belt. And, likewise, Welcome To The Jungle is far from a life-changing album, but it's charming enough to kill a Saturday afternoon with.