Brendan Benson - Metarie (Wellfed version)


Brendan Benson – Metarie (Wellfed Version)

[I]f you’re not familiar with the names Brendan Benson & Jason Falkner, you’ve undoubtedly heard their playing, arranging, engineering, or producing on critically acclaimed records by everyone from Paul McCartney to Adele, Beck, the White Stripes, Gnarls Barkley, or even Loretta Lynn. Benson co-fronted the Raconteurs with Jack White, & Jason Falkner briefly shared a band with Jon Brion. When the pair got together in 1995 to begin work on the Wellfed sessions, Benson was being lauded by critics & college radio djs as the savior of power pop, & Falkner had just released the Grays’ Ro Sham Bo with Brion the year prior (after exiting power pop cult heroes Jellyfish). The stars seemed to be aligning for Benson’s major label debut. And then Virgin Records rejected the album.

Benson re-recorded a shiny, hi-fi version of the record with Ethan Johns, & while that record was still great, it also failed to capture the interest of Virgin & their marketing department, & the record, now titled One Mississippi, was released with little fanfare & Benson was subsequently dropped from the label. Falkner’s influence remained, having co-written half of the songs, and while there’ a vitality & spontaneity missing on the re-recordings, the real tragedy was the omission of the song Metarie. The song would find a place on Lapalco, Benson’s follow-up effort & reunion with Falkner (six years removed from the Wellfed sessions), but the recording comes across as obligatory, rather than inspired. It was a year after Lapalco’s release (2003) that the Wellfed recording of Metarie finally saw the light of day.

This recording of Metarie is everything great about the 90’s in three & a half minutes. There’s stripped down singer/songwriter melancholy, explosive fuzzed out jams, & even hints of psychedelia, but somehow there’s a magical balance to it all… the song never veers off course, & it all goes down smooth, in spite of all the twists & turns. It’s self-effacing & tragic in a way that captures the disillusioned singer/songwriter vibe of the time (Benson co-headlined a tour with kindred spirit Elliott Smith’s Heatmiser in promotion of One Mississippi), but also captures both Benson & Falkner at their best, musically. I’ll go as far as to say that this is my favorite recording of the 90’s, & that it’s probably the lost gem of the decade. (And that’s not hyperbole.)

You can get this track on the Metarie EP, & six more tracks from the Wellfed sessions on the deluxe reissue of One Mississippi, if you can find it.