Milwaukee-based Mike Benign Compulsion brings all the tools to his third album Here’s How It Works. Benign is joined by bassist Brian Wooldridge, drummer Michael Koch and guitarist Joe Vent. The group is a tight sounding unit, with touches of Elvis Costello, The Kinks and The Beatles sprinkled all around. Benign’s rugged vocal takes hold of you right away.
Starting with the mid-tempo “Mrs. Kean” it’s a dense song about adultery with backwards guitar that leads us to the next stage in the affair, “You Say It’s Over” and our protagonist is “inclined to agree.” The big single “Haley Daley” is a fantastically catchy song with energy and snide attitude. The songcraft is both delicate and complex in “Bay Window” making it one of the best ballads here.
The theme of loss and anxiety permeate the entire album. The restlessness is apparent on “Professional Jealousy/Saw Your Post” with the latter half of the song shifting to resigned bitterness. “Me and My Fluoxetine” has a perfect opening riff and line that would make both Ray Davies and Bob Dylan jealous. The pastoral harmonies on “Sleep” make it another winner. No filler either, as each track gives you something compelling. After a few listens, I found no reason to keep it off my list of top ten albums for 2014. Don’t miss it.