Pop sensations Brendan Benson, Stands will explore new ‘Alternative’s at Grog Shop tonight

Andrew Hampp

Credit: Andrew popik

Can’t wait for the next Fountains Of Wayne album and really wish The Beatles were still around? Tonight’s performance by Detroit’s Brendan Benson and Liverpool-based The Stands at Cleveland’s Grog Shop should easily satisfy all your power-pop urges.

On his third album, Alternative To Love (V2), Benson offers up a collection of foot-stompingly catchy songs such as the Creedence Clearwater Revival-meets-Franz Ferdinand title track and the urgent, fist-shaking groove of first single “Spit It Out.”

While the music is undeniably accessible and poppy, it’s a definite hard sell in the US, where sunny, guitar-pop anthems like “Stacy’s Mom” are one in a million next to the countless “Get Low” clones that cloud the airwaves.

Which would explain why Benson has developed quite the following in the UK, where quality pop music is still all the rage and “crunk” is a word that might be mistaken for a tea biscuit.

Benson, for one, seems pretty nonchalant about the whole matter.

“I spend more time over there than I do here,” said Benson, whose 2002 album Lapalco won him a large Brit following. “Also, my manager is there so I think it kinda works out that way.”

Although it’s been three years since Lapalco’s release, Benson has been anything but lazy in his time between albums.

In addition to Alternative To Love, Benson has also produced for V2 labelmates Blanche and The Greenhorns, sold out an entire UK tour and even cut a forthcoming album with fellow Detroit rocker, and neighbor, Jack White.

“It’s hard to describe,” Benson said of the album, which will feature duets between him and the more blues-oriented White. “It probably won’t be out till next year or later cause I’m doing my record and he’s gonna do a White Stripes record. We’ve just kinda put it on hold for now.”

While the album with White may have been put temporarily on the backburner, Benson is concentrating all of his energy on promoting Alternative to Love, which he wrote, sang and played all the instruments for. That one-man band aspect was applied in the music video for “Spit It Out,” which Benson was less than pleased with.

“I hate it,” Benson said frankly “It wasn’t my idea. Some guy came up with this treatment. I thought it was kind of a good idea, in a way, to convey this idea that although I am a solo artist, the songs were really meant to be played in a band. I don’t know, I’m not really good in front of a camera.”

Benson is, however, excited for the in-the-can clip for second single “Cold Hands (Warm Heart),” which features just the opposite approach of the “Spit It Out” video.

“I’m not featured in it, so it might be good,” Benson said, with a self-deprecating laugh.

While Benson is busy promoting album number three, Liverpool’s The Stands are finally celebrating the US release of their debut disc All Years Leaving, which touched down on American shores in January after nearly a year’s release in their native U.K.

Like Payne’s brother Sean’s band The Zutons, The Stands are another pop-rockin’ British band who succesfully come across as the sum of their influences without ever shamelessly aping them.

But where Sean’s band looks to Yes and The Kinks for influence, Howie’s band The Stands recalls American folk rockers like The Byrds and Bob Dylan at their best on songs like “I’ve Waited So Long” and “When The River Rolls Over You.”

So why the need to look to American bands for inspiration when they have plenty of Brit rockers like The Who and the Stones?

“Er, I really like The Who, and the Stones sound American,” Payne said in attempt to defend his country’s music.

Ameriphile tendencies aside, The Stands are even less concerned with “cracking” America than they are sounding like it.

“Er, I don’t really think in terms of to crack or not to crack,” Payne said, obviously obeying Janis Ian’s command in Mean Girls to “say ‘crack’ again.” “You know, I just write some songs then sing them. There’s too much to distract you if you always think in those terms, you’d never get any sleep.

“It’ll be great if people get into it, but we just want to be a good band in terms of playing, and we want to make good records. You know, like, we want to do what we do good, and to do well at it, but that’s just where (our) heads are at with it at the moment, I guess.”

Catch Brendan Benson and The Stands, two good bands making great music, tonight at the Grog Shop.

Contact Pop Arts editor Andrew Hamp at [email protected].