November 04, 2002

Ben Kweller "Sha-Sha"

Piano music. Elton John was good at it. Billy Joel was okay at it. Ben Folds is excellent. Stevie Wonder was a piano god. Ben Kweller isn't any of these. Of course, he's not the Piano Man, either. What he is, though, is a failed ex-alternative teen rockstar boy whose previous band, Radish, sounded like Hanson trying to be an American Silverchair, who were trying to be an Australlian Nirvana. Of course, it's 2002, alternative is boring, emo's where all the girls are, and where do you think the ex-teen star would head for?

Wait, I can hear you teenagers grumbling at me in the back. What, you think what I just said is unfair? Considering that Kweller didn't exactly have to struggle to get to where he is today (daddy knew "people"), it's not that unfair to be cynical. He's barely not teenage anymore, and so it's not unnatural for him to gravitate to where the kids are. Sha-Sha sounds like Weezer with a piano and Ben Folds with a guitar and little else.

I have to admit that for all my bitching and playa-hatin', there are some really good moments on here. I do like "Wasted and Ready," and "In Other Words" could be his "Bricks" if "Bricks" hadn't been written by a genius. And to be fair, he's not as whiny as Bright Eyes, either. In fact, I think that he's the man-boy that Conor Oberst would be if he took a fair amount of medication for his issues. Still, those bright moments aren't enough to save Sha Sha from sounding anything less than the record that somebody somewhere thinks it should sound.

While writing this little review, though, my opinion's changed slightly. Yeah, Kweller does come off as smug, and there's a whiff of prepackage to Sha Sha as well, but it's not as bad as I'd originally thought. Too bad there's not a Weird-Al Show for him to play his little songs on, either, but you know he'd so be there on the stage if there were such a thing as Emopalooza. If you disagree with me, then go and write about it in your Livejournal account, slappy.

--Joseph Kyle

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