Friends with Benefits

This little CD has a big heart, and in most cases that translates into an overstated album that gets crushed under the weight of its purpose. But Friends with Benefits works because its bands—mostly proven indie-rock and fuzz-pop groups (Mike Gunther, the Deaths) with a couple of fresh faces (the Malmbergs, the As We Go Alongs)—are as good as the compilation's cause. The reason lies in the back story: In the early months of 2005, after Minor 7 recording studio opened its downtown Minneapolis doors, its founders realized the best way to show off their new studio toys was to pimp some product. Problem was, they hadn't recorded anyone yet. The genius of their solution—to offer free recording time to any band willing to devote one unreleased track to a cystic fibrosis benefit CD—is twofold. First, no group in their right mind will turn down free studio time, a fact that gave Friends with Benefits the pick of the Twin Cities crop. Second, because the same engineers recorded each of the album's 16 tracks in the same studio, FWB has a consistency of sound and flow all too rare in compilations. Adding to the coherence is Brian Tighe, whose bands (the Hang Ups, the Owls) and friends (Heavy Sleeper, countless others) compose the bulk—and best—of FWB's lineup, while Spaghetti Western String Co.'s version of the chamber classic "Chitarra Romana" and the Idle Hands' Libertines-ish "Sunshine on the Tenements" are the standout tracks. 2005 was a big year for local compilations (other notables include The Bootlegs: Commemorating 35 Years at First Avenue,'s hip-hop compendium Volume Won, and's The Music of Here. Now). But with so few low spots, Friends with Benefits is the only must-have of the bunch.


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