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Simply titled Ben Kweller , the new LP was produced by Gil Norton (Pixies) and it's the follow up to 2004's highly acclaimed On My Way and 2002's indie rock classic Sha Sha . Like these albums, the new one is brimming with unforgettable melodies and deft craft, while it also expresses a deep, often soulfulness that could only come from one so sensitive as Kweller. Unlike the previous albums, however, every note you'll hear on Ben Kweller was played by the man himself.
On his first eponymous effort, Ben Kweller sounds wise beyond his years--and younger than ever. Some songs come on mature and understated, like "Nothing Happening," others surge with youthful enthusiasm, like "I Gotta Move." Then again, Kweller is at that midway point between 20 and 30. His lyrics trod the same fine line between young and not-so-young. Rhyming "losing control" with "rock and roll" ("I Don't Know Why") seems pretty facile, but then he busts out with the infinitely more original, "I'm-a just a penny on the train track / Waitin' for my judgment day / Come on baby girl let me see those legs / 'For I get flattened away" ("Penny on the Train Tracks"). It takes dexterity to combine humor and longing without letting both sides down. Repetitive, if heartfelt ballad "Thirteen" messes with the momentum, but Ben Kweller is yet another winner from the man of the same name. His fourth full-length concludes with "This is War," in which the music-mad scientist splices the garage-rock rhythms of the White Stripes with the pop smarts of the Raconteurs... and the Monkees (specifically "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone"). Has Kweller been listening to Jack White lately? Or did he just discover Nuggets? Either way, here's hoping he keeps it up as the tambourine-fueled rocker is one of his best. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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It's a decent album though he still hasn't bested the Sha Sha record.
If you're a Kweller newbie, check out Sha Sha first. After listening to Sha Sha, if you're not hooked on Kweller, none of his other stuff will cut it for you anyway.
This album was great for me. But I'm highly biased when it comes to Mr. Ben Kweller. He could put out an album of static and I'd probably come away thinking it was oh-so-adorable.
A few songs on this cd remind me vaguely of seventies pop. The rest are telltale Kweller. Unpretentious. Sincere. Infective.
The songs are *almost* better than those on Sha Sha; Kweller's songwriting has matured a lot since then. "Run" is an excellent opening to the album, "Sundress" is good, and "I Don't Know Why" has an awfully catchy pop-chorus. It's hard to describe a Kweller album - gentle yet driven, upbeat, youthful, and heartfelt. The last track "This is War" is definitely a little departure, but not bad.
I'd recommend this for people who enjoy Ben Folds, Ben Lee, Third Eye Blind, Better than Ezra, Josh Rouse, Jack Johnson, Guster, Nada Surf, and other singer-songwriter/indie-powerpop types.
Ben Kweller's self-titled third album certainly earns its name, with Kweller playing all the instruments this time around. It also marks his first album without esteemed producer Ethan Johns, who had produced both of his previous efforts; working instead with British producer Gil Norton (best known for his work with Gomez and Foo Fighters). The change has Kweller trading in the raw rugged folk sounds of previous albums for a more refined sound, but somehow Kweller sounds more at home in his shiny new digs; crafting an album full of pop oriented rock n roll gems.
The entire album recalls the big glorious rock sounds of the 80s, when giants like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty ruled the airwaves. The same feel good melodic folk rock that made them so refreshing run rampant on Kweller's third effort. Kweller has no interest in aping the classics, despite the distinct taste of Petty that permeates through the breezy "Sundress". The melancholy song finds Kweller expressing his willingness to keep up with his lover's changing desires with the sweet "I do, anything you want me to" hook; further explaining, "And from the inside-out you've changed girl / You know you have, don't make a good thing bad".
The overwhelming sweet innocence in Kweller's songwriting combined with his brilliantly catchy melodies turns each song into a bouquet of wildflowers. Right from the start of the jangling acoustic folk rocker "Run", Kweller's wide-eyed exuberance pulls you in as he looks at his life on the road, and explaining that it would all be better with his wife by his side. Most directly about his relationship with his wife is the gorgeously memorable "Thirteen". With only a piano and some verses, Kweller tenderly recounts the highs and lows over the years with his childhood sweetheart; leaving a mark without the benefit of a hook. Kweller's rich picturesque lyrics on the song leave listeners wanting more when he abruptly finishes with, "It was in the back of a taxi / When you told me you loved me, and I wasn't alone".
The piano chugging rock n roll number, "Penny On A Train Track" is an uplifting and cathartic listen, where Kweller runs into an old high-school friend who makes him realize that he is a 'grown-up' now. The simultaneous nervousness and excitement of the moment plays out beautifully. Capturing both the elation of falling in love and the freewheeling fun of 80s power pop, "Magic" is perhaps the most instantly catchy tune on the album. The punchy, "She's magic", hook, describing his lover's incredible charms over him, works wonders against the nostalgic backdrop. Following the soft piano ballad "Until I Die", the rollicking "This Is War" closes the set as the loudest. Sounding like a mash-up of The Raconteurs and The Beatles, "War" is a lively and powerful taught 2:30 rocker.
Ben Kweller is easily the most consistent and rewarding album from the budding rock superstar. Gone are the annoying inconsistent moments on his younger efforts, leaving a tight rock album with enough melody and pop sensibility to make his third album a career defining treasure. Completely devoid of any missteps or minor stumbles, at the young age of twenty-five, Kweller sounds like he has found his groove. Ben Kweller is a breezy, poppy, and ultimately refreshing listen not to miss.