April 25, 2002

Test Spin: Ben Kweller

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Ben. It’s a short name; three letters, one syllable. But don’t let the simplicity of it fool you, ’cause when it comes to short, quirky, piano-driven tunes and mellow male vocals, young rocker Ben Kweller seems to be following in the footsteps of another Ben, Aussie Ben Lee formerly of Noiseaddict.

Like Lee, Kweller started off young (16 years old), then disappeared after his initial success with his band Radish only to return with a softer, smoother sound. Kweller’s new release Sha Sha is an enigmatic mix of three-minute poppy shockers that can’t decide whether they’re meant to be electric or acoustic. The indecision, however, seems to be the whole point.

On the title track, Kweller belts out, “Nothing isn’t nothing, nothing’s something that’s important to me” There’s no question here that Kweller owes his newfound brand of lyricism to indie contemporary Steven Malkmus and his piano playing to Ben Folds, but all-in-all Kweller’s newest is a fun listen. Not groundbreaking, not universal, but nowhere near simple.

Archived article by Nate Brown