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October 27, 2007

A Peddler of Platitudes Wins Me Over, or, The Power of Personality


I'm not going to speculate... no, wait. I am going to speculate. Last Sunday, the talented cheeseball Ben Kweller rocked my fucking socks off, and I'm gonna try and work out just how he did it. I've sort of already got an idea: talent and sincerity. It's a charming combo.

I always thought Kweller's style-needle quivered perilously between seriously awesome pop and sappy muck, much like Matthew Sweet, who has a much worse hit ratio. And on Sunday night, here they all were: the songs I loved, the songs I loathed, and, dammit, I loved them all.

5 Points on Ben & the Gig

1. Kweller's passion for music is so obvious, so evident, that it's damn near palpable. And yet- and yet -it skirts earnestness. That's poise. I like to think of his personality as a dolphin.

2. Kweller and the band glided effortlessly between pub rock dirge, folk whimsy, piano ballads, 2.8 minute pop, and 10 minute blues solos. There was no implied claim to virtuosity here. The versatility had nothing other than the quality of being natural.

3. there's a college-educated (I don't know if Kweller ever did attend college) knowingness to his music that doesn't translate to wilful irony, which is a fucking boring quality, and gives license to talentless screamers. I think Ben Folds pulls this off, too, but I might be wrong.

4. Kweller is a serious fly-fisherman, and sings a song saluting fishermen all over the world.

5. lastly, he is a mystery. Christ knows I know nothing about the man, but his presence suggested to me a man instinctually--and not knowingly--comfortable. He is charming because he is balanced.

Oh, and the talent helps. Ben Kweller, I salute you.

Posted by Martin McKenzie-Murray at October 27, 2007 5:27 PM