Ben Kweller is 22 years old, hip, opening for Death Cab for
Cutie and an accomplished rock singer-songwriter, but he
isn’t mysterious. A hint of mystique is often a
rocker’s appeal, but there’s a sense of innocence and
unbridled honesty that comes across in Kweller’s music and
demeanor. He’s cooler than you, but only because he writes
and plays awesome songs on numerous instruments.

Music Reviews
Ben Kweller and Radish. Not pictured: Radish. (Courtesy of ATO)

Kweller first appeared in 1996 when he was merely 15 years old
and the front man for the Texas post-grunge band Radish. When the
group disbanded in 1999, Kweller moved to New York City to forge a
solo career, and his reputation as an exceptional songwriter
preceded him. “I didn’t know anybody when I moved
there,” Kweller explained, but then he started getting some
phone calls. “I made some friends like Evan Dando, Jeff
Tweedy and The Moldy Peaches. All these people started calling me
and all this amazing stuff started happening. It was a real
exciting time.”

In particular, Kweller finished writing and released his
full-length solo debut, the remarkably enjoyable and dynamic
record, Sha Sha, in 2002. Oozing with youthful exuberance
and whimsical lyrical imagery, Sha Sha sounded like Weezer
one moment and like Elton John the next. Despite switching styles
almost every song, Sha Sha was still incredibly coherent
from start to finish, the kind of album your friends will ask you
about if it’s playing in the background.

Kweller thankfully returns on April 6 with On My Way, his
second LP. Seeking to present himself and his band in the rawest
way possible, Kweller decided to have Ethan Johns produce the
album. Ethan’s father, Glyn Johns, manned the boards during
The Rolling Stones’ most famous sessions and heavily
influences Ethan’s production style. Kweller recalled in his
best British accent (which actually sounds more Australian) the
first day of work on the album when Johns proclaimed that “He
was going to set us up just like his father set up the Rolling
Stones.” Dropping back into his own laid-back tone, Kweller
explained that they just used “One microphone in the center
of the room with each of us facing one another. We just fucking
played the songs. Things didn’t get old. It was a
continuously fresh process.”

The result is an organic pop record heavily influenced by his
life in New York City. Like that city, “This record is
gritty, but there’s a lot of love,” Kweller said. Not
just “boy/girl love, but love for everyday experience and
camaraderie.” The jangly pop of “My Apartment”
suggests Kweller’s love affair with his familiar pad and
neighborhood, while the reflective acoustic title track wistfully
describes an old friend.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *