Ben Kweller – On My Way (CD)

Starting out with indie gold in “I Need You Back”, Brooklyn’s Ben Kweller shows that ey hasn’t lost eir’s ear for successful, poppy yet chock full of indie cred tracks. Fred Eltringham and Mike Stroud, Kweller’s drummer and guitar respectively, are essential to create the perfect, free from the restraints of time sound of Kweller, sounding at times like an early Tom Petty or even current wunderkind Ted Leo. The Spaghetti Western style of the piano on “Hospital Bed” and Ben’s own vocal noodlings put eir in the Ben Folds camp, alternating between that and a Rocky Horror/Hedwig and the Angry Inch (50s rock style music) vibe. Paradoxically, the title track draws down the poppy, uptempo beginnings to “On My Way”, where Ben assumes a reedy tone to eir’s voice that finally digs itself out of the slow rut that the track quickly finds itself in. The Jack White-styled guitars of “The Rules” provide a further escape from the slow, sticky molasses which entraps listeners during the title track, restoring the CD to its formerly pristine nature.

Actually allowing eir’s voice to crackle at the highest register during “The Rules”, Ben really breaks out from the timid, meek singer/indie-rocker mold, a tone which is continued during the seventies-blues rock influenced “Down”. Going down the slippery slope into a depressingly slow tempo in “Living Life”, Ben benefits from some strong piano lines, worthy of a Billy Joel or Elton John, to salvage the track. Perhaps being too repetitive in “Ann Disaster”, Ben’s band mix together The Breeders with Blue Oyster Cult to make a lumbering, yet still intriguing backdrop for Ben’s soft-spoken lyrics.

Overall, there is no lack of experimentation on “On My Way”. Like most experiments, there are times where the expected result doesn’t happen, and Ben takes it all in stride. Moving through indie-rock to fuzz-driven garage rock to everything else under the sun, there is no faulting the kid for trying eir’s best. “On My Way” is a solid album, even if it doesn’t have a perfect radio track like “Commerce, TX”. “Believer” may be close in capturing that radio gold, but I believe where there isn’t necessarily a radio-friendly track, that the whole record is much more solid and mature of an effort for Ben this time around. While it may not be exactly what everyone wants in an album, I believe that anyone who gives this album a few spins will love it, regardless of tastes in music.

Top Tracks: Hear Me Out, Believer

Rating: 7.0/10

Ben Kweller – On My Way / 2004 RCA / 11 Tracks / http://www.benkweller.com / http://www.atorecords.com / Reviewed 04 July 2004

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