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French Cassettes - Benzene

French Cassettes - Benzene

Benzene means nothing and everything. As a child, Scott Huerta’s birth name—Lorenzo—transformed into Wren, then Renzo. Before long, he was Renzo Benzo. By the age of four, the family had largely settled on Benz, which is what they still call him today. Benzene, Huerta’s own abstraction, was chosen on a whim. “I wish I had a better explanation,” he admits. “I guess I should have Googled it first.” The self-deprecation is classic Benz, as is this crossing of the wires between the flippant and the deeply meaningful. 

The San Francisco band’s third album holds up so well to repeated listens thanks to it’s world of references, quotes and handmade word-puzzles that only Huerta can fully unpack. Some of the band’s influences are apparent: The Magnetic Fields in the tight song construction and humor, The Beach Boys in the harmonies and experimentation. But Huerta’s lyrical aesthetic is his own, and Benzene is packed to the gills with funny, memorable one-liners punctuated by knife twists. Its themes never veer too far from separation: from partners you still want the best for; from family members who have died; from a person you’re trying hard not to be.

Lyrically and musically, the songs on Benzene are in constant motion: The band never misses an opportunity to do something interesting. The boys of French Cassettes follow their instincts to all destinations of feeling earnest, funny, joyful and heartbreaking with no regard for genre or posturing, making it feel like a new listen every time. The band’s confidence—which is very apparent on their third album—seems less important than their trust

That trust is particularly evident on the album’s closer, “Up To You,” which hosts some of Benzene’s most inscrutable and engaging moments before wrapping up a very familiar subject: Huerta’s grandmother. It stems from a memory of the notes she’d leave Scott and his brother Thomas on their shared family computer. Over swirling guitars and a drunken piano walk that ascends as the vocals climb downward, Huerta sings lines about William H. Macy and growing up in the suburbs. Like much of Benzene, it’s funny… until it hurts.

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