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Jay Bennett
THE BELOVED ENEMY
(Undertow)

Although he suffered the very public indignity of being dispatched from Wilco in the documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Jay Bennett has rebounded nicely with a solo career, releasing Bigger Than Blue last year and more recently The Beloved Enemy. Whereas Bigger put the emphasis on full-band arrangements and relatively traditional alt-country/pop forms, Enemy is more handcrafted (Bennett plays just about every instrument), intimate, and left-field. If Jeff Tweedy once thought his former partner was not "out there" enough, he should listen hard to this offbeat album, which is as idiosyncratically beautiful as, say, Big Starís Sister Lovers. Not only does Bennett sing his guts out ó on "My Little Valentine," his wheezy voice recalls Mark Eitzel at his most anguished ó but the wobbly performances sound as if they were always this close to hitting the dirt; itís evident that Bennett has gone through some serious emotional turmoil to produce an album so seriously raw. From the shambolic "Fifty Cent Words"í to the diaphanous "Audrey" to the melancholic "I Want You Back" to the downright ghostly "Pretty Good Year," there's not much here that doesnít wrench, tear, or scrape.

BY ELIOT WILDER


Issue Date: March 25 - 31, 2005
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