Review Summary: For his sophomore effort, Kweller tries to move away from the indie pop that put his name on the map, and go for a more vintage, blues sound.
After the release of Sha Sha, Ben Kweller’s debut album, he was highly regarded as one of the best, new talents around the indie scene. So with all this potential, what did Kweller decide to do? He decided to scale back the pop a little bit, and get a little “bluesy”.
Within the first seconds of the opener, “I Need You Back”, it’s evident that the catchiness of Sha Sha won’t be as prominent and that Kweller is going for more of a vintage feel. The guitar riff of the verses gives a quick thought of the 70s. In the chorus the toe-tapping drums are the most prominent, other than Kweller’s wailings of “Hey! Hey, I need you back!” 4/5
The pounding of the piano and drums together that open up “Hospital Bed” bring back memories of Sha Sha’s opener “How It Should Be (Sha Sha)”. However, here it doesn’t exactly seem to work as well as it did before. The verses are a bit awkward and slow, but the culmination of instruments and speed in the chorus works wonders. For this song, the faster the tempo, the better it is. 2.5/5
The opening of “My Aparment” also doesn’t seem to work very well, despite this, Kweller goes back to the same riff after each chorus and after a brief bass solo. Just like with the previous songs, the verses in the song are weak, but the chorus is of high quality. The drums and bass also have some very nice fills in between and also featuring, as stated above, a bass solo. The lyrics in the song are pretty strong as Kweller makes you feel a bit sad for him, and it’s pretty amazing how Kweller can keep you interested in a song about an apartment. 3/5
Next is the title track “On My Way”. It’s a slow paced acoustic track, making it very focused on the lyrics. Each verse is about a different topic, including, killing a man, “this kid you gotta meet”, and his wife. Because of this each chorus is different as Kweller wails “Oh! Mom I never thought that I was (topic of the previous verse) man/but tonight I’m on my way/tonight I’m on my way” The song sends a pretty good message about love, and friendship, and the verse about his wife is very beautiful. 4/5
After the slow tempo of the previous song “The Rules” takes you off guard as it starts off with a fast guitar riff. The lyrics are pretty funny as Kweller sings “Show me all the rules girl/I just want to get them wrong”. The song features one of Kweller best guitar solos of his solo career, a quiet bass solo, and some nice drumming. 4/5
During “Living Life” Kweller plays a relatively slow-paced piano while singing about being true to oneself. The drums keep your toes tapping. There’s no audible bass or guitar until the bridge, where some bass fills can be heard in the background, and then a bluesy guitar solo is played that fits very well with the song. After the bridge/solo, there’s no audible guitar or bass, save a few notes. Overall, the piano drags a bit, but the lyrics are beautiful. 3.5/5
The distorted guitar riff of “Ann Disaster” gives the listener yet another impression of the 70s. The drums, bass and guitar all blend in very well together. The lyrics are very “tough guy-ish” as Kweller sings “I know what you want/You want a piece of me” in his signature wail. The solo is very different from Kweller’s usual style, as he shreds it up, while the drums and bass continue their riffs. Right when you think the song is over, the tempo increases and Kweller yells “Ann Disaster” over and over again, until it slows back down and the song ends. 4/5
“Believer” is longest track on the album and the most beautiful. It reminds me of “Make it Up” from Sha Sha, because it sounds as if it should be played on an acoustic guitar, but Kweller chooses to play it on an electric guitar. There are also some slow-paced drums playing alongside Kweller and his guitar. The fill after each lyric is very catchy. The lyrics are also very beautiful as Kweller sings to a girl that he’s “so happy I fou-hound you”. 4.5/5
The mix of light guitar picking and harmonica in the intro to “Hear Me Out” make you think you’re in for another quiet song, but the tempo picks up a bit afterwards. This song probably has my favorite lyrics, because it connects inane things, such as the Rubik’s cube, laser beams, and outer space. Also the chorus is full of word play featuring some homonyms as Kweller sings “Hear me out/You don’t know I’m here/(hear) me out” making it a very fun, witty song. It also features a solo, but it doesn’t fit in very well and is very messy taking a bit away from the song. 3.5/5
The closing track “Different but the Same” opens with an annoying piano riff, but luckily it’s over within a matter of seconds for the verse, which sounds pretty somber. There is not much notable bass or guitar in the song, and the drum is a simple 1-2 beat for the most time. The lyrics are of high quality, but musically the song drags on too much, and is not a strong closer. 2/5
After a listen to this album, some thoughts of a sophomore slump will be passing your mind. In it’s own right, it isn’t very bad, but compared to the infectious pop of Sha Sha, it’s disappointing. However, if you enjoy Ben Kweller’s other work and would like to check this out I recommend it to get a feel for his entire catalog. Also, if you like more blues influenced music, you may want to give this a listen.
-Drums are improved from Sha Sha
-Some very nice guitar solos
-Not as catchy as Sha Sha
-Some songs can drag on
-Bass is subpar
-I Need You Back
-On My Way