Being a Raconteur alongside Jack White hasn't propelled Brendan Benson into pop's upper echelons, and his fifth solo album drips with disappointment. "Well here it goes again, another losing streak," he sings over the gorgeous 70s AOR piano melody of Bad for Me, "I guess I'm on a roll." It's about relationships, but it's hard not to wonder if he's also reflecting on his inability to turn the endless goodwill towards him into actual success. What Kind of World won't cause the goodwill to dry up, but it never reaches the heights of 2002's Lapalco, still Benson's high-water mark. That album's fuzzy, compacted powerpop is revisited here, but there isn't quite the same sly lyrical wit or joyous bounce. When he does get playful – On the Fence is a countryesque ballad about a man who's leaving, but who'll be back, who's neither a fighter or a lover, and who'll always stay sitting on the fence – it's a joke that never really flies. It feels churlish to be so critical of an album that yields many pleasures, but Benson has brushed perfection before, and one hopes he'll do it again.
Michael Hann is a freelance writer, and former music editor of the Guardian