The Portland Phoenix:
by - Sam Pfeifle
Of course, you may just want to rock out this weekend, and for that, Eric Bettencourt's got you covered. Sure, you pegged him as folkie after Fine Old World, but he's been working on material with his old band, Giraffe Attack, for a few years now, and this stuff is decidedly more full-bodied, as evidenced by The Giraffe Attack Collection. He draws liberally from the classic rock masters — the Beatles, Clapton, a little Leon Redbone; I'd call the open to "What Works" a "Meg White" homage — but keeps things particularly robust, with multiple guitars, piano, banjo, trumpet, lots of backing vocals, continuing his reputation as someone who really knows how to use the studio.
As with Fine Old World, Bettencourt seems concerned with emphasizing the "album" quality of this album, tying things together with a central question: "Do you believe you can outdo perfection?/Do you believe you can outdo your God?" But this is an album that hangs together by virtue of its aesthetic. Like the pairing of the guitar riff and trumpet solo in "Empty Sidewalks," the banjo that tears through the back of "Miss Miserable," or the "la, la, la" backing in the Munsters-esque "Stonewalled" (right before it opens into the best chorus of the album), Bettencourt's arrangements and songwriting turns are consistently interesting and indicative of a curious mind.
There's nothing by the book here. If it feels like Bettencourt is everywhere lately, it's because he is, and he should maybe turn down a few gigs here and there to avoid being overexposed, but there's a reason Rustic Overtones pegged him to sit in for Ray LaMontagne's parts recently. He's an evolving talent you'd be wise to watch.