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Ben Kweller: Sha Sha

Of the parade of capable male singer-songwriters to emerge in the past year
or two (David Gray, John Mayer, Ryan Adams, Pete Yorn, etc.), Ben Kweller may
very well be the best- and at 20, he’s younger than Britney Spears. Kweller’s
fantastic debut album, “Sha Sha,” was released earlier this year by ATO
Records.

The singer/guitarist/pianist Kweller, who was part of the Texas-based trio
Radish before moving to Brooklyn and going solo last year, rotates among pop,
folk, traditional-rock, and post-punk styles, yet just about all of it works.
After hearing the piano-heavy opening track, “How It Should Be (Sha Sha),”
for instance, I was wondering if I’d gotten Ben Kweller confused with Ben
Folds at the record store. The first single, “Wasted and Ready,” is decidedly
more Weezerish and likely to hook teenage emo fans, even if the rest of the
album is decidedly un-emo. “Lizzie” is a solid acoustic guitar number, while
the closing “Falling” is a melodic delight.

Despite his marvelous voice and exemplary musical arrangements, Kweller is,
predictably, rather immature as a lyricist, coming up with such goofy lyrics
as “She goes above and her call of duty/She is a slut but X thinks it’s
sexy/Sex reminds her of eating spaghetti.” There’s also stuff that would make
no sense in standard conversation, like (from “Commerce, TX) “That’s my new
best friend, Ann Disaster’s her name/We’re passing out on the carpet and our
attributes are the same.” Yet coupled with the rest of the presentation, the
wacky words are more endearing than off-putting. And keeping with the theme
of the album’s title, there are all sorts of “sha-sha”s “bop-bop”s, and “ooh
ooh ahh ahh”s throughout.

The more I hear “Sha Sha,” the more I like it. It’s rather infectious, and
anyone listening will likely be singing along to every song by the fifth
spin. You can even debate whether the singer is Jewish- in a seeming
non-sequitur, at the end of the chorus of “Lizzy” he randomly inserts a quick
“Dayeinu”!

Ben Kweller, judging from this excellent debut album, has quite a future
ahead of him in the music, as long as the men-with-guitars trend doesn’t go
the way of Lilith Fair anytime soon. But in a year of solid newcomers to
popular music, Kweller is definitely one of the most impressive. Not bad for
a guy born in 1982.

About Stephen Silver

  • rebekka

    for anyone who cares ben kweller is GOD, anyways. i really like his albums btw his new album (on my way) is out and really good

  • http://NA Amy Alexander

    Ben Kweller is sooo great! I dn’t erally know waht I’m saying this to but evry1 needs to hear it! He rocks steeeady!

  • Lucee

    its true, ben kweller is a lord. i love him!

  • Jenny

    Dienu…Lizzy…born in 1981…”She goes above and BEYOND her call of duty”…sorry, typos screw with my mind.
    This review really captured the feel of the CD though. “Sha Sha” is rather catchy, isn’t it? Ben Kweller is more than enough reason to listen to music at all.

  • rooder

    So good. “Falling” remains as one of my favorite songs out there. I’ve got to admit that I’m a little disappointed with the new album. The songs feel a little more forced and a little less light. Here’s hoping his next one tops Sha Sha.

  • ? Lily

    Sorry, man, but I have to argue with your review. He’s not an immature lyricist, it’s deliberate. If you want to pick the few lyrics you consider immature, that’s cool, but don’t say he’s an immature lyricist. You can’t even type. Oh, and, by the way, Ben kweller has made it very clear to the public that it does not say “Ann Disaster”. It says AND, not Ann. Also, if you were to actually try to read and comprehend thatt lyric from Commerce, TX, you would see that it makes perfect sense. I guess this only bothers me because, though your article compliments Ben Kweller, it is done in a very condescending way. Put out a song better that his, then you can criticize. Obviously, though, you don’t know enough about Ben Kweller to utter another word about him.