Craig Bennett – Faster Forward

Craig Bennett
Faster Forward

At a glance, Craig Bennett’s Faster Forward seems to do with mid-70s Brit rock what Josh Rouse’s new release 1972 does for the Steely Dan era (Rouse does a better-than-passable Michael McDonald impression, by the way, though I’m not sure how proud he should be of that). That is, Bennett, who for much of this album sings like a David Bowie sound-alike, seems to be a tourist dipping into Bowie-style rock circa Ziggy Stardust. This reading, though, fails to do Faster Forward justice. It may be stylistically backward-looking, but the wink and nod are convincing enough to let you know that this isn’t just in exercise in nostalgia. In other words, this ain’t a Lenny Kravitz record.
Bennett plays a variety of instruments on the album himself, though he also employs a rotation of bassists, drummers, and other musicians, and works in street sounds and background talking, with everything thrown into the mix together for an ecstatic kitchen-sink effect. It works wonderfully.
Bennett is a supremely gifted songwriter. The tunes are pop perfection, and there are virtually no static moments throughout the full 13-song album. Everything is up tempo, and ther energy the music gives off is contagious. I caught myself literally tapping my foot at one point. Bennett’s lyrics are skewed and oddly angled views of the world. “My Muse Has Become a Nuisance” opens the album by casting the songwriter’s muse as a real person, a disaffected thrift store clerk with whom Bennett has cell-phone conversations. She’s a demanding one, too, reminding him that she “inspires all your sad songs about how life is so long.” The album takes off from there, tripping and careening through whirlwind of unique observation, a lot like the Flaming Lips but with more irony, less sentimentality.
If these are sad songs about how life is so long, they certainly aren’t aimed at depressing you. More likely, Bennett is having fun with the notion of the world-weary, fretting modern (and usually British) pop songster. It’s worth pointing out that Bennett is from Georgia, so there is a lot of affectation here (he can’t really sound that much like David Bowie, can he?), and I’m not saying that it isn’t distracting sometimes, but the album succeeds anyway, due chiefly to the fact that songs just plain sound good. The melodies are tuneful, the arrangements work, the lyrics are confoundingly compelling, and what else do you need?