Benjamins

The Art of Disappointment (Drive-Thru Records)

With crap like 3 Doors Down and Creed clogging the airwaves, a listener might wonder if the United States will ever produce another non-punk-rock band that can find a hook outside a bait and tackle shop. Milwaukee's Benjamins answer that question with a resounding yes. The Art of Disappointment is teeming with enough catchy tunes to fill up the jukebox on American Bandstand. The first song, "Couch," is a slacker anthem for the ages. Singer-guitarist Jay laments having to share the davenport with even the memory of his girlfriend: "Your side of the couch/I'm afraid to be on it." Evidently it reminds him of cheap dates gone by: "Molly Ringwald/Me and you/Sixteen Candles/Lonely summers." As painful as it is to see his girl run after boys with fatter wallets, Jay's misery doesn't love company: "It's nice to not have to fight for my blanket." The third song, a Buggles-ish number titled "Sophia on the Stereo," provokes an irresistible urge to cut all your ties lengthwise, head for the nearest retro club, sneak the disc into the DJ booth, and see if any of the "Tainted Love" set would notice the difference.

By the sixth track, "Clover," the Benjamins change gears and bare their Midwestern roots. Gone are the cutesy '80s effects, and in their place is the genius we all wish Soul Asylum still had after it made it big. You know, tuneful yet distorted guitars; pounding, upbeat rhythms; and catchy melodies with tag lines that tattoo themselves on your cranium: "I have ideas about the way things should be/I have a picture that you didn't give me." Marketed correctly "Clover" could win the Benjamins a guest appearance on Total Request Live (equipped, one can only hope, with a full complement of M-80s).

As with any 12-step (or -song) program, anger builds within The Art of Disappointmentand culminates on the explosive "Gave It Away." With fresh breakup egg on his face, Jay screams: "I don't give a fuck/Who you fuck!" and swears to let the inevitable rebound go. You cheer for him, but you just know he's going to pick it up -- and catch an elbow in the teeth for his trouble.

 
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