Ben Kweller’s influences have always been focused—one of the luxuries afforded to those born in 1981, people who, without the boundless infiltrations of the internet to distract them, looked to their immediate surroundings for guidance: in this case, the radio awash in early-90s grunge and the prevalence of country music in suburban Texas. He took the more enticing route for a teenage boy, leading Nirvana protégés Radish on Letterman and European tours before moving to NYC and funneling high school angst into slacker pop under his own name. Despite fleeting moments of disdain, Kweller’s always seemed to be fighting the good fight—thrown into the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle blindly believing in it. Two big-hearted albums later, he returned to Texas in 2009 to make a bona fide country record. And now Go Fly a Kite marks a crossroads. Where some would be uncomfortable and fidgety, Kweller sounds settled in.
But maybe a little too settled. You can still picture the ripped knees of his jeans while the album plays, but with the exception of a faint scowl on opener “Mean to Me,” he sounds prematurely aged—prematurely "satisfied," perhaps a better word—his country tendencies soothing as he leisurely doles out vague life lessons. When the opportunity arises to rhyme “lady luck” with “fuck” on the 70s Southern-fied loller “Free,” he instead allows the silence after “all she wants to do is” to merely suggest it. On a barroom piano ballad he uses rainbows, or lack thereof, as a metaphor for tough times. A husband and father caught in a time warp from having lived a lifetime in his 30 years, he paints a picture of a guy who considers flying a kite a viable option for how to spend an afternoon. A decade after his solo debut, Kweller’s got nothing to prove, which is exactly how Go Fly a Kite sounds.
Photo by Kevin Baldes