Release Date: Feb 7, 2012
Record label: The Noise Company
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Alternative Country-Rock
On a series of early-2000s albums, Ben Kweller established himself as a versatile, lyrically clever power-pop whiz kid. But now he's 30, and mere talented craftsmanship will no longer do. So on his first album since 2009's alt-country detour, Changing Horses, he hones his best Cars, Harry Nilsson and Wilco moves into a personally revealing breakup record.
How Kwell-sauce manages to channel the Fab Four so adeptly without sounding like a blatant ripoff artist is beyond me. There’s a certain threshold which separates inspiration from outright theft, and while he is safely on the inspiration side, he jokingly dangles his limbs over that line and feigns imbalance for a chuckle at our expense. Kweller infuses just enough smattering of cymbal-crashing alt-country to keep from sounding exactly like Paul McCartney fronting Fountains of Wayne.
You don’t have to be all that old to think of Ben Kweller, still, as a kid with a satchel full of catchy power-pop melodies who is busting on the scene. But that was 2002 when the debut disc by a 20-year-old was coming out and giving you the Beatle-esque glow in your belly that only a great chorus and a harmonically fresh pop hook can provide. I still get a big smile when any track from Sha Sha comes up on my playlist.
It's strange to think that at 30 years old, Ben Kweller has spent over half of his life professionally crafting pop songs, and while it's rare for someone to be both relatively young and a grizzled pop veteran, it's precisely this combination of youth and experience that the singer/songwriter calls upon on his fifth solo album, Go Fly a Kite. With a sugary mix of youthful exuberance and practiced craftsmanship, Kweller delivers a group of songs that cover the pop spectrum, drifting from the fuzzy, driving power pop of the album-opener "Mean to Me," to the lonely pedal steel of the alt-country-inflected "I Miss You. " This willingness to explore different sounds paints a picture of a songwriter who, even with a wealth of experience under his belt, isn't willing to settle into one sound quite yet.
Ben Kweller, once arguably the heir apparent to the solo artist indie rock throne, is back at it: Go Fly A Kite, an album marked by a long delay attributed to his departing from his record label, is exactly what you'd expect it to be. See, listening to Go Fly A Kite isn't altogether a different experience from listening to, say, Sha Sha. Really, drop in a measure of maturity, and you've got this or, at least, something resembling it.
Liking Ben Kweller is not dissimilar to liking Ryan Adams, Coldplay, Ben Folds, or for that matter, Bon Jovi. None of those artists have any great sonic or stylistic similarities, but they do all share one common trait. Admitting one’s affection for any of them will inevitably result in an eye roll, sneer, look of disgust, or any other number of disapproving gestures from your local scenester.
The trouble with being a child prodigy, Ben Kweller's new record suggests, is you might grow old faster than everybody else, too. In 1997, when the Texas singer-songwriter was only 15, The New Yorker chronicled the major-label bidding war for his alternative rock band Radish, en route to an appearance on Late Show With David Letterman, European tours, and a commercially disappointing debut album. By 2002, at only age 20, he was living in Brooklyn and making a modestly successful comeback, with the shaggy yet sweetly melodic pop of solo debut Sha Sha, a charming distillation of influences from Weezer and Ben Folds Five.
After self-producing his last full-length record, Changing Horses, Ben Kweller steps it up on his latest, Go Fly A Kite, by releasing it on his own brand-new record label, the Noise Company. A Texas native, Kweller often maintains an easy, Southern country/blues sound on his records. It’s almost like Go Fly A Kite takes the best things about all of Kweller’s previous works and combines them into 11 rockin’ gems.
Kicking it country-esque on 2009's Changing Horses following his return to Austin, Ben Kweller turns decidedly poppier for his fifth studio affair and first album on his own Noise Company imprint. Though "Mean to Me" opens with a crescendo diving into psychedelic-powered guitar fuzz, Kweller settles into smoother terrain with the easy licks of "Out the Door. " The piano-backed punch of "Jealous Girl" and swaying "Gossip" both achieve pinnacles of pop, completely masking their lackluster lyricism, but it's Kweller's pushing his ruffled tenor into Seventies roots-rock territory that serves him best here.
Ben Kweller is releasing his fifth studio album ‘ Go Fly A Kite’ this week. After four moderately successful albums that established him as the anti-folk left-field prince of loner pop, Kweller sounds less daring and experimental on his new album. He sounds more like he’s close to a full-on midlife crisis.He’s 30 now and unfortunately you can tell.
Kweller’s fifth LP lacks a moment of spark to brighten its self-referential corners. Jen Long 2012 On this fifth solo release and the first on his newly created The Noise Company label, Ben Kweller is the epitome of an honest character. Having signed his first record deal at the rather intimidating age of 15, the now-30-year-old singer is pretence-free and unashamedly wearing his influences on his sleeve.