The Bollard reviews Fine Old World
Playing across many a sunny New England town green this coming June: Fine Old World, the sticky sweet debut solo album by Giraffe Attack singer/guitarist Eric Bettencourt. Though the record is being released this month, this is summer music, an unapologetically sunny collection of 13 bluesy rock songs.
Bettencourt has a tire-spinning-in-gravel vocal delivery, an audacious choice of timbre with which he can howl in homage to the smokier-voiced Ray LaMontagne and conjure "Me and Bobby McGee"–era Janis — sometimes, as on "The Plan," during the same righteous romp. Shannon Hoon used a similar rasp to great effect with Blind Melon, but Bettencourt is painting a new kind of pop context for the familiar growl.
When writing about love, Bettencourt's approach is more bonfire than bedroom. He tends to use the collective "we," and sounds most comfortable in front of vast and beautiful chorales of backing vocals, as on the album highlight "Sweet Elise." In "Delaney," he urges his companion to "spread all of your light on everyone." These songs are all-inclusive invitations to simply groove along.
Bettencourt draws from a seemingly bottomless well of middle-wiggling licks. His feel for the guitar neck brings to mind masters like Duane Allman and Mark Knopfler. From the subtle slide meanderings in "It's Over" to the circus-Goth of "Uniform," his playing doesn't feel retro so much as a revitalization of what's worked before.
The one gripe I have with this brisk and confident album is Bettencourt's penchant to get lazy with the lyrics, as he does on the title track, oddly presented here in three separate parts. After casting the world as "funny", "ugly" and other such meaningless generalities, he uses four very's to describe just how "fine" this old world is. The clichés don't help his cause, but it's easy to be won over by this very fine debut.
— Mike Olcott