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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mike Benign Compulsion

Rollicking Musical (Beautiful Human)

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Rollicking Musical is a minor masterpiece of rock production recorded by Milwaukee music veterans Mike Benign and Joe Vent. The debut album by this new lineup of old friends is a carefully layered effort that never loses the organic sound of a rock band, a tip of the hat on many tracks to the influence of George Martin and kindred spirits from the late ‘60s. “So Easily Sold,” for example, sounds a little like a deep cut from Bad Finger.

The songs themselves are entirely the work of Benign, a writer of elliptical vignettes grounded in the ‘80s style of Squeeze and Crowded House with many wry wrinkles in the lyrics. And yet the production and arrangements continually allude to an earlier period, complete with Beatlesque harmonies and the icy whisper of Tyler Traband’s melotron. Perhaps the album’s most brilliant track, “The Soothing Sounds of Seals and Crofts,” is an insomniac’s nightmare at the edge of fuzzy psychedelia, an insistent beat drumming home the anxiety of sleeplessness.

Album release party, May 14 at Shank Hall with Milwaukee’s Ward and Minneapolis’ Petty Demons opening.