Ben Kweller On My Way

[RCA; 2004]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: indie pop, singer/songwriter
Others: Ben Folds Five, Weezer, Bruce Springsteen

Having lost his indie edge after a lengthy tour with '70s cover band the Kings Of Leon, Ben Kweller has chosen the way of Rocking Out. Long gone are the fragile poetics of "In Other Words" and the Slacker [film by Richard Linklater] dirtiness of "Wasted And Ready." In lieu of fine moments such as these are slower passages that seem farcical of 2002's Sha Sha in an ostensibly half-assed spiritual attempt at re-releasing the same basic album. This is most obvious on tracks like "Living Life" which, despite being just as delicate musically with a piano and whatnot, goes through the philosophical motions instead of portraying any kind of true transcendence, thus pandering to the entertainment/image driven desires of his supposed indie audience as opposed to seeking and helping to create spiritual release, fulfillment, or at least something uplifting. The guitar work is all painted in one color and changes are predictable, while the vocals are less adventurous and human than before. To compare Kweller and Weezer, Sha Sha is to On My Way what Pinkerton is to Maladroit.

The title track pretty much states its own case. In the first verse, he says he wants to kill a man ("I never thought I was a murdering man / but tonight I'm on my way"). In the second, he progresses to yearning to steal from a family and, following this, listening to a man, befriending a teen, and loving a girl. But since he didn't actually kill or steal in the first two verses, he never fully explains a character transformation during his "good listener" ramble; contextual poetic logic would then lead to him never having either a friend or lover, effectively making the song about a man who never did anything -- including thinking. I never thought I was a CD returning man, but right now I'm on my way.

1. I Need You Back
2. Hospital Bed
3. My Apartment
4. On My Way
5. The Rules
6. Down
7. Living Life
8. Ann Disaster
9. Believer
10. Hear Me Out
11. Different But The Same

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