Ben Kweller has made a career out of the easy going Power-Pop. With his puffy cheeks and kind eyes his songs resonated with innocence and all around feel-goodery. Coming up with a catchy sing-along seems easy coming from Kweller. Throughout his five solo albums he always seems to find the right spot, crafting the punch line and the clever lyric. Still, Kweller is the kind of talented musicians who strives to be like the classics of Beatles, Kinks and Neil Young but cannot get past the nerd-rock lifestyle of Weezer and Ben Folds.
Go Fly A Kite could be viewed as a return to form for Kweller when comparing it to his 2009 releaseChanging Horses. On Changing Horses he moved from New York back to his home state of Texas and adapted Americana/Country-Rock into his music. It was a welcoming experiment, something that divided his fans but brought him to new musical grounds. On Go Fly A Kite he brings what he learned from country music back around to his roots of Power-Pop producing timely breakup songs like “Jealous Girl” and “Gossip” that could catch on radio stations.
The songs are full of catchy chords and repetitive pianos; he seems to alternate between instruments depending on what the song calls for. “You Can Count On Me” is wonderfully catchy, mostly due to Kweller’s playful strumming. It is impressive how the dynamic between his song structures stays strong while skimming through genres. “Full Circle” is a harmony filled dance while “Free” is a country-rock romp complete playful yelps and a tangy lisp.
The problem is these are the same Ben Kweller songs his fans have come to expect. Despite hitting 30 and adding techniques to his toolbox he doesn’t demonstrate much maturity. The best song on the album is the opening track “Mean To Me” because it is a rock-n-roll haze fueled by distorted guitar and enraging feelings. Starting the album this way is shocking and exciting. It gave Kweller and edge and perhaps a new relevancy. Unfortunately “Mean To Me” is the biggest risk he takes and he ultimately settles down into safe territory.
Fans of Kweller and Power-Pop will like Go Fly A Kite. It is a likeable album. I just wish Kweller were more daring.