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Ben Kweller - Ben Kweller (Cover Artwork)

Ben Kweller

Ben Kweller: Ben KwellerBen Kweller (2006)
Sony Music Entertainment

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:


Contributed by: KirbyPuckettKirbyPuckett
(others by this writer | submit your own)

When I was an adolescent the only things on my mind were girls, the anticipation of obtaining my driver license, and wondering when the new Vandals record was going to be released -- regardless of what some bogus super model will tell you, this was the simple life. For Texan teenager Ben Kweller, li.
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When I was an adolescent the only things on my mind were girls, the anticipation of obtaining my driver license, and wondering when the new Vandals record was going to be released -- regardless of what some bogus super model will tell you, this was the simple life. For Texan teenager Ben Kweller, life was considerably dissimilar and ever so frantic. Generally, unless you are a young male with a cunning, stunning voice you will not be courted by a major label during your high school musician years. The young Kweller however was quite an exception to this rule. At the ripe age of 12 he along with two friends Bryan Blur and John Kent formed the profoundly Nirvana-influenced group Radish. By 1995 the band had signed to Mercury Records, where they released two full-lengths, toured the country, and even delivered a handful of performances on the late night television circuit. All this before they could legally engage in military combat. Nonetheless, despite the hype and endorsements Radish was never considered much beyond a novelty and were promptly forgotten.

Over a decade later we find a completely different Ben Kweller. The twenty-something currently has two solo records under his belt, a wife, and as of May a charming newborn son named Dorian. When Ben reinvented his musical career with 2002's Sha, Sha you could feel the direction he was striving for, his musical talent grew, but as a solo performer he still had a copious amount to learn. On My Way found our protagonist maturing in every direction and for the first time in his musical career he able to focus on his own signature sound and define himself as an imperative musician in contemporary rock'n'roll.

Mr. Kweller's latest and self-titled studio effort develops the soul of On My Way by intuitively combining his influences over the years. The confluence of talent and wisdom is immediately recognized, as Ben looks back on his storied career while surging onward during the opener "Run." His voice, sturdier and mellower than ever marvelously croons on the starter, "Since 15, I have ran everywhere you can run, but together is much better so let's run, let's run…" While he has grown as a songwriter, his voice maintains a youthful tone, pausing and holding syllables as if he was a nervous teenager giving his first public speech in front of classmates. He is confident and well spoken though and knows when it is appropriate to govern the microphone and the audience. This is ever so perceptible on the album closer, "This Is War," which originally appeared on the Bad News Bears soundtrack. The song is a swift rocker that adds an energy severely missing from modern rock music -- the guitars and drums pulsate vigorously during the verses and settle just in time for the chorus so that Kweller can shine vocally.

Seeing as the artist resides in Texas I was always surprised at the lack of southern musical influence in his songs. You can find dashes here and there, but never enough to change the flavor of the dish. Conversely, several songs on the new record adjust the recipe slightly with a variety of alt-country. "I Gotta Move" is a pleasurable jingle that resonates perfectly for a mid-summer drive down a parched Texas highway. Although its foundation is built on a pop-rock melody "I Don't Know Why" reaches brilliance because of the southern itch in the guitar. Near the end of the album "Red Eye" again finds Ben's guitar flirting with a country sound, this time the picture not so cheerful as he paints a melancholy image. BK's positive devotions to love in the majority of his lyrics are clearly his forte, but this sorrowful abnormality will garner your heart's interest.

Musical diversity is a significant phase each celebrated artist encompasses, but the clever ones are those who can combine their past accomplishments with their foresight seamlessly. The album's single "Sundress" corresponds well with this description. The tune is as upbeat as Kweller has ever been and a supple keyboard melody la the Get Up Kids humming in the background truly escalates this song into one of the finest in his catalog. Ben Folds and Ben Lee have proved to be excellent mentors for the younger Ben as you can equally hear their influence on several tracks ("Nothing Happening," "Thirteen"), but they are nothing more than a stimulus behind his own imagination. "I'll wait for something good, for something great" is a lyric from the nimble "Penny on the Train Track" -- prominence is near; if BK keeps up the pace he will not be waiting long.

Ben Kweller's life has been heavily dictated by pressure. Being deemed a potential prodigy at such a young age and failing to achieve such astronomical standards could ruin one's self-esteem and outlook towards a music career. Thankfully Mr. Kweller refused to let that impair his vision, as after several attempts he was competent enough to create the premiere piece in his discography. Not every song is overly powerful, but there is not a single flop on the eleven tracks that grace Ben Kweller. Progression in songwriting and execution are natural processes for someone with immense aptitude, but the ability to develop those skills in a cohesive manner is what makes a respectable artist a distinguished one and Ben Kweller has achieved this dignified status.

 

 
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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Anonymous (October 16, 2006)

This dude is the most boring, major label indie rock ever. major label from almost the get go, and no even close to punk. why is it being reviewed here again? Did this become bland-indie-rocknews.org?

GreenVandal (October 16, 2006)

That is a pretty hilarious sentence. I've written worse though. :D

Anonymous (October 16, 2006)

One of the most prevalent, opinionated arguments when it comes to music is the prejudiced teeter-totter whether if a band should fade away into the dusty bins at used record stores or go out on top leaving their fans craving more.

Anonymous (October 16, 2006)

Your review of that ATDI record starts with what is, by far, the worst and most stupidly constructed sentence of all time. You deserve some sort of anti-Pulitzer if you actually proofread that before submitting.

Not-To-Regret (October 15, 2006)

I downloaded this out of curiosity. I didn't like it except for the punk backbone of the very last track, the only one with distortion. But I was left with the impression that it sounds like he's emulating Fleetwood Mac? Am I right? Totally sounds like fleetwood mac. Just on this album in particular, I don't know his influences or other work. Score's for the last track "War".

JustinUCR (October 15, 2006)

Ben Folds did the William Shatner album.

GreenVandal (October 14, 2006)

Fuck this guy.

Anonymous (October 14, 2006)

ah, yes, but he's a big fan of wearing tighty-whities. I mean, that must get him some points, lol.

FuckYouOiOiOi (October 14, 2006)

what teh fuck?

SlackMFr (October 13, 2006)

gay music.

greg0rb (October 13, 2006)

I do like this album, but it seems he has been dumbing it down on each successive record. Sha Sha was all over the map stylisticly and had lots of different instrumentation. On My Way was a lot more straight up rock, and this one is made even more straight up probably because he played every instrument on it. Very bare bone. Nevertheless I do enjoy the songs and he writes a killer hook. Not sure yet if this will make my list...
-Greg

Anonymous (October 13, 2006)

Of all the terrible things about this album, perhaps the worst part is the cover. Goddam scarf...

Anonymous (October 13, 2006)

"And which Ben did the William Shatner album? Was it Kweller? Or Ben Folds? Maybe Ben Lee? I dunno, but the cover of "Common People" and the Henry Rollins tracks were amazing"

Ben Folds produced that record.

Anonymous (October 13, 2006)

I like the album because I like Kweller, but I have to roll up my windows so no one knows I'm listening to it. Kind of sappy this time around. A little trite.

Anonymous (October 13, 2006)

This stoned little turd would never have gotten a major label deal if his parents hadn't have known the right people. Fuck this twerp.

TheBouncingSoul (October 13, 2006)

I like them all

solid album

maverick (October 13, 2006)

This album isn't as good as his past two. Also, the packaging/artwork is terrible.

-Scott

gladimnotemo (October 13, 2006)

So this dude is just a grunge washup playing psuedo-singer/songwriter jams? The truth is finally revealed and now I don't have to waste my time on it. Good job, punknews!

Punky_Chips_Ahoy_Oi_Oi_Oi (October 13, 2006)

I really liked his first two CDs... but this one is a huge letdown. It makes me angry that all the press is praising this so much more than Sha Sha and On My Way.

jonathonfallow (October 13, 2006)

I wish I were Ben Kweller
Cause he writes those cool tunes
He uses those cool minor chords
And I love the way he croons.

cash_money_hustla (October 13, 2006)

Ben kwellers first album is the shit son!!!! fuck you punk rock motherfuckers!!!!

Cos (October 13, 2006)

And which Ben did the William Shatner album? Was it Kweller? Or Ben Folds? Maybe Ben Lee? I dunno, but the cover of "Common People" and the Henry Rollins tracks were amazing

--Cos

Cos (October 13, 2006)

I'm not one to call the "this is PUNKnews.org" card very often, but....

Ben Kweller? Really?
--Cos

Fuzzy (October 13, 2006)

This guy produces the most bland fucking pop-rock-schlock in the world. The very idea that he once got a five here pisses me off and makes me laugh all at the same time.

Anonymous (October 13, 2006)

As do I.

Anonymous (October 13, 2006)

I enjoy The Ergs' Ben Kweller EP more than this.

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