The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Ben Kweller is ‘On his way’ with release

Rebecca Saunders | Wednesday, April 14, 2004

It is doubtful that a great deal of students has heard of Ben Kweller, or much less would know any of his songs, but this lack of attention is undeserved. The former lead singer of the band Radish just released his second solo album, “On My Way.” After the moderately successful “Sha Sha,” Ben Kweller fans have been waiting a long for time for “On My Way” and they will generally not be disappointed by this second album. “On My Way” is a bit more developed and mature than “Sha Sha” and maintains the flare that makes a Kweller album a Kweller album: funky rhythms, at times just plain strange lyrics and generally some decent melodies. Following the recent rise of the 60s garage band sound, Kweller’s “On My Way” sounds very similar to the vintage sound of bands like Kings of Leon and The Thrills. Ben Kweller’s web site describes the unique process used in recording explaining, “The motto put forward from the beginning of the session was ‘performance first.'” With that in mind, Kweller and his bandmates recorded with all instruments together in one room and minimal separation between amplifiers and drums. The band played mostly without headphones to ensure that each member could hear and react to the whole sound being produced in the room, instead of focusing on what each individual had in his headphones. These underused yet effective techniques ultimately gave the vocal and instrumental delivery a more impromptu feel. The sound of “On My Way” is definitely unique and is reminiscent of “Sha Sha,” yet very different and separate. The recording emphasizes the themes of the songs, making the album very cohesive as an entire work. Kweller loves music and is simply a true musician at heart. Growing up in Texas, he originally played the piano. Kweller has been a musician from the beginning. “Someone taught me how to play ‘Heart and Soul,'” Kweller says, “and I saw the chord pattern and thought ‘Ok, what if I play the first key, skip the second one, go straight to the third then back to the second key and then the fourth one, like 1-3-2-4 instead of 1-2-3-4. I did it and it sounded completely different than ‘Heart and Soul!’ After that, I started writing words modeled after the girls and love in Beatles songs my parents would blast through their stereo. I was seven years old and hardly knew what a girl was but figured this is what you sing about when you write songs!” This attitude seems to remain with Kweller even today in his song writing, which is downright ridiculous at times. From “I want to kill this man but he turned around and ran. / I’ll kill him with the Karate that I learned in Japan” in “On My Way” to “We are just a sexual making me an alcoholic relation” in “Hospital Bed,” Kweller’s lyrics are surprising and original to say the least. Overall, if you like Kweller you will love this album. If you aren’t quite immersed in that world of music, then “On My Way” deserves a listen, but there may only be two or three songs that merit listening to again. Original, witty and unique, “On My Way” takes the listener into the world of Kweller and if you are familiar with the geography, then don’t miss out on this album.

Contact Rebecca Saunders at rsaunder@nd.edu