Band of the Day

2012.06.04

Ben Kweller

A rock veteran returns to endearing indie pop gold
Don’t regret being the ragged kid, don’t regret anything I ever did, ‘cause I always knew where I was coming from.
lyrics from Mean To Me

Ben Kweller is a solo artist based out of Austin, TX. Originally born in San Francisco, his family moved to Greenville, TX when Kweller was a child. Kweller formed the band Radish at the tender age of 12, and within a few years the band had found considerable success, signing with Mercury Records and developing an international cult following. Radish broke up in the late 90s, at which point Kweller moved to New York City to embark on a solo career. Kweller released the EP Phone Home in 2001, then followed it with his debut full-length Sha Sha in 2002. On the strength of break out hit “Wasted and Ready,” Kweller found widespread acclaim, opening for bands like the Strokes and selling over 200,000 albums. He followed with 2004's On My Way, 2006's Ben Kweller, 2009's Changing Horses and the recently released Go Fly A Kite.

Most people remember Ben Kweller best for “Wasted and Ready,” a hit single from his 2002 debut album Sha Sha that was released when Kweller was just 21. With its lazy drawl of a verse and singalong chorus (remember “sex reminds her of eating spaghetti/I am wasted but I'm ready!”) it was firmly rooted in the Rivers Cuomo school of power pop. Crazy as it is, that song was released a decade ago, and Kweller has been far from inactive since, even if he hasn't invaded mainstream consciousness in the same way.

The Austin, TX based rocker released a couple of excellent albums that merged indie pop, singer-songwriter and rock in 2004's On My Way and 2006's Ben Kweller. The albums display Kweller's range as a songwriter, shifting from piano ballads, to the kind of indie power pop that made his name in the first place. His songs have a kind of timeless innocence to them, maybe it's his endearingly boyish voice, or the earnestness that manages to be moving without getting saccharine or emo.

Kweller followed those albums with the country record Changing Horses in 2009, a not entirely unexpected or unwelcome move for a Southern born rocker who had long included nuances of Americana influence in his music. But longtime fans were excited to hear Kweller was returning to basics with 2012's Go Fly A Kite. At its best, Go Fly A Kite revives his indie pop ballads. “Jealous Girl” is built on momentous pianos and thickly distorted guitars with a big chorus that begs for drunken singalongs. “Mean To Me” is pure rocking fun as Kweller sings lines like “don't regret being the ragged kid/don't regret anything I ever did.” Good thing he doesn't regret it, or he'd be repeating past mistakes in the good-naturedly disheveled track.

Kweller is nearly 31, and no longer a ragged kid, but we hope he continues to write songs with such youthful verve and maturity for years to come.