Ben Kweller’s obviously done something right to get to where he’s at, but I never really understood what it was that he was doing. I saw his name in magazines a bunch, but while I was reading his interviews I could never manage to remember how his songs went. On his new, self-titled record (out today on ATO Records) the opposite is true–I didn’t get through my second listen of it before I started singing along.
It’s not just that his songs are the kind of indelible pop that make me feel like I’ve been listening to them forever. Kweller’s done the thing he does well enough since age 15–when his first band, Radish, got signed to a major–that he’s already writing his family-man record at age 25. Paul McCartney and Neil Young wrote great family-man records–modest, gorgeous solo albums that made the domestic life of a tamed rock star sound less like a compromise than an idyll, glowing with weary pleasure. Kweller sounds more like McCartney than Young, and that’s probably why it sounds so familiar to me; I was raised on Paul’s 70s family-man songs. Ben Kweller is just one hook after another, and it could sound unnecessarily epic in the wrong hands, but Kweller and producer Gil Norton wisely kept the instrumentation to a minimum–mostly just drums, bass, either a guitar or a piano, and Kweller’s double-tracked voice. It sounds as warm and intimate as something recorded at home, which is fitting.