Reviewing Gerry Hundt and Johnny Young's records gave me a chance to express my love of well-played mandolin. Brendan Benson's "Eyes On The Horizon" gives me a chance to gush about another instrument whose sound I love and don't hear often enough, the electric piano. My attraction to that sound was enough to draw me in. As usual with Benson at his best, there was more goodness where that came from.
Somewhere Jeff Lynne is laughing his balls off. Electric Light Orchestra had its following and many hits, but he didn't blaze a trail that inspired legions of followers. Benson's obvious affection for Paul McCartney has led him to Lynne's doorstep on "Eyes Of The Horizon" (and perhaps even more on "Garbage Day"). If Rip Van Winkle fell asleep in the '70s and woke up and heard "Eyes" today, he'd swear this song was from his day. Most artists who find a retro style channel those retro sounds through contemporary conventions, bridging the gap between the "then" and the "now." Not Benson. He takes the "this shit sounded good then so why mess with a good thing?" approach. He's not wrong.
Don't let the disposable packaging deceive you. The lyrical imagery isn't all sunshine and lollipops. The boy next door has drowned, been killed, or overdosed. The narrator in this song is paranoid, trusting no one and suspecting he's being watched, tracked, and followed. As an aside, this is also the song with the line that gives My Old Familiar Friend.
The contrast between the bright packaging and dark subject has a magnetic pull equal to the hook Benson has written to balance the poles. This is smart songcraft at its finest.