In Rotation: Ben Kweller's 'Go Fly a Kite'
In Rotation: Ben Kweller's "Go Fly a Kite." A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers and contributors are listening to right now ...
The opening cut on Texas indie rocker Ben Kweller’s fifth studio album on his own label sounds like a lost track from Minnesota’s late, great Replacements — and a pretty good one to boot. “Gotta scream at the top of yer lungs just to get out what you want ‘em to hear,” the former wunderkind bellows in “Mean to Me,” over growlingly distorted electric guitars and a trash-can lid backbeat.
Kweller's music has long been steeped in classic rock and pop of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and the Stones, and he’s never hidden his admiration for mavericks such as Alex Chilton, foundational elements that are still shaping him now that he’s turned 30.
If all kiss-offs were as relentlessly catchy as the one he’s crafted in “Out the Door” — "Here I go out the door/I don’t need no more” — "goodbye” might rank right up there with “hello” in the spectrum of human experience. He taps a circus-like ambiance in the shifting-metered “Gossip,” and revels in jaunty country-pop in “Full Circle.”
With age, Kweller is mellowing a bit. That’s not to say that he’s lost the edge or bite of his early records, when it suits him: “Why do I sing these songs, all of these mixtures of pain?” he asks in “The Rainbow.” But like Elvis Costello all those years ago, where he used to be disgusted, these days Kweller finds the reward in simply being amused.
"Go Fly a Kite"
(The Noise Co.)
— Randy Lewis
Photo: Cover image of Ben Kweller's "Go Fly a Kite." Credit: Noise Co.