I encountered mop-haired indie-pop wunderkind Ben Kweller when he was the mysterious third amigo in The Bens (alongside Folds and Lee).*
He came across as a nice hybrid of these two and almost every other upbeat, guitar-wielding, power-pop folk-rocker you can imagine.
This debut captures that first experience perfectly. Ben bashes out eleven happy, slacker-friendly little gems, all guaranteed to have you swaying and jumping and grabbing a tennis racket.
This is Beck without any of the gadgetry, Weezer with no cynicism, the Lemonheads without the opiates.
Ben has a rosy take on the world that is infectious (while not cloying), and an ability to construct songs that seem throwaway but are actually deftly constructed memes you couldn’t ignore if you tried. The pick are Wasted and Ready, Falling, Walk on Me and Commerce, TX:
Anyone think he borrowed a Nirvana riff on this one?
File under: Sha(mbolic but) sha(rp)
*Alas the Bens never delivered their promised longplayer, and the sole EP (which is a ripper) went unreviewed.
Posted in K
Tagged album, album review, Beck, Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, Ben Lee, CD review, music, music review, The Bens, The Lemonheads, Weezer
I’ve been a very good mood today. My teaching commitments are done for the year and I have dived back into my research. The sun has been shining and I’ve been contemplating a summer of much fun.
That makes reviewing this album a little difficult.
This collection of tunes are on the melancholy side. It’s not quite morose, slit your wrists stuff. But, relative to the bands previous two albums, it is more measured and downbeat in temper.
There are more tracks built around piano rather than guitar. Several of the tunes are quite dire in their content. What Sarah Said is a real departure for the band with Ben Folds-ish keys, and a heartbreaking insight into the experience of watching a friend pass out the wrong end of the intensive care unit.
There is still much to admire and embrace here, but just not on a summer day par excellence.
As an aside, this was a very astute Xmas present purchase from my now sis-in-law a few festive seasons ago. Nice choice Steph!
File under: Synch with sinking feelings
This was fancily packaged CD was purchased in the afterglow of one of Benny boy’s rousing sologigs. The new tunes he played on the evening in question were sufficiently memorable and engaging to prompt acquisition.
Much of the rambunctiousness of his earlier incarnation has faded, replaced by a somewhat jazzier Joe Jackson/Billy Joel piano-man feel. While I own nothing from those two gentleman (but I am a fan of JJ’s Real Men and Is She really Going Out With Him) it is an ideal format to explore human emotion etc. Of course, it can also be a domain prone to lyrical self-indulgence and keyboard trickery.
Folds delivers some quality songs on this – Trusted, Landed, and Bastard – all break-up tracks yet again. I guess that’s sure to be a common source of inspiration when you keep churning through partners like BF does! Several others are too pedestrian or cringe-worthy – like his ode to his little daughter (Gracie).
I also bought a 7″ off this album in pursuit of one of his live classics – a Dr.Dre cover that is unlikely to be suitable for your workplace (excessive swearing but much hilarity ensues):
File under: Satisfying solo sojourn
Note: The alpabetically inclined among you may be pondering the “B” status of this CD. It should be in “F”, but is kept alongside his earlier banded incarnation for convenience’s sake.