Kweller’s fifth LP lacks a moment of spark to brighten its self-referential corners.
Jen Long 2012-05-11
On this fifth solo release and the first on his newly created The Noise Company label, Ben Kweller is the epitome of an honest character. Having signed his first record deal at the rather intimidating age of 15, the now-30-year-old singer is pretence-free and unashamedly wearing his influences on his sleeve. However, despite all that surrounds it, there’s something quite disappointing about this record.
Go Fly a Kite feels like music by numbers. Everything here is satisfactory: the production is glossy, the songs are eloquently constructed with choruses that swell from verses that tell us tales from Kweller’s life. Yet there’s a missing flare, an absent moment, which if present might make you feel this album was written with open eyes. It’s not groundbreaking, and it’s not that interesting.
Lead single Jealous Girl has the immediacy of a familiar friend, but the lyrics are lazy and cliché. "Jealous girl what have you done / I won’t live in a jealous world with anyone," drawls Kweller with no little predictability. Elsewhere, The Rainbow feels like Ben Folds writing for Yo Gabba Gabba!, while Gossip is just Dylan by beginners.
However, Kweller’s ability to write a melody that catches from the first play still stands throughout the body of Go Fly a Kite. His choruses soar and sweeten any sourness that’s bred from crass lyricism, while his words feel like they're being sung from the bottom of his heart. But for all the glorious Tom Petty moments, it’s a record that has followed its influences rather than be built on them.
For long-time fans of Kweller, this album will represent familiar fare, but for new listeners it’s not the most recommended of entry points. Resting on laurels may please some, but in a period where established artists need to make their most exciting and progressive music yet to stand out, just being oneself isn’t always good enough.