Kweller is finally on his way with new self-titled release

Ben Kweller
“Ben Kweller”
3.5 out of 5 stars

In a recent discussion I had with a friend of mine, the topic of Ben Kweller’s last album, 2004’s “On My Way,” came up. My friend turned red and eloquently proclaimed that he could have shit on a CD and it would have been a better record. He then proceeded to trash half my office with a steel chair.

His attorneys have informed me that what my friend meant to say was that Kweller’s second solo record was nowhere near as good as his first, nor did it display the range of talent that Kweller possesses as a songwriter.

I agree with these sentiments entirely. “On My Way” was a disappointing display from the former rock wunderkind, lacking in both catchy melodies and interesting lyrics.

Hence when this, Kweller’s third solo LP, came across my desk, I was justifiably nervous. Would it be a return to form or another exercise in mediocrity?

Breathe a sigh of relief, Kweller fans, because this record will help return some of the luster to his tarnished reputation.

Working with producer Gil Norton (Jimmy Eat World, Foo Fighters, etc.) and playing all the instruments himself, Kweller has put together a much more concise and focused effort than anything else he has released.

The songwriting has greatly improved and this time around there are easily recognizable and memorable hooks that have the ability to stick with listeners. This album simmers with a disciplined passion that you can’t help but notice in each song.

It’s still not quite as good a record as 2002’s “Sha Sha,” but make no mistakes about it – Kweller is back, and in a big way.

Key Tracks: “Sundress,” “I Gotta Move,” “I Don’t Know Why”

The Black Keys

“Magic Potion”

3 out of 5 stars

The Black Keys have spent several years being one of those hard-working blue-collar types of outfits, chugging away on the concert circuit and slowly but surely building up a loyal fan base.

The release of its last record, 2004’s “Rubber Factory,” helped to really establish the group and garnered it a bunch of critical praise as well as some commercial success.

All of this contributed to the fair amount of anticipation that preceded the release of its latest record “Magic Potion.”

The formula hasn’t really changed any for the guitar-drum duo on any one of their albums – basic two-instrument blues-style rock featuring crunchy guitars and do-it-yourself production. If anything, there may be a little bit more focus on the blues part this time around, but it plays just like a Black Keys record. I still like the last album better, but this is good too.

Key Tracks: “Your Touch,” “Modern Times,” “Black Door”