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Sha Sha by Ben Kweller

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Reviewed on 1st July 2002.


Sha Sha

By Ben Kweller

Ben Kweller's Sha Sha album is out on July 29th on 679 Recordings. It's going to do pretty well for itself, and will probably go down as a legendary album even if sales don't save the Dow Jones Index.

Ben Kweller used to be 12. He was in a band named after a root vegetable that didn't do much. This much we know. He still looks and sounds 12, but is actually old enough to be failing his second year University exams. Which would be about right.

Ben Kweller's world is that tiny space between turning off the TV and looking for your new trainers. He's the sort of soap modelled character who gets stressed out because this afternoon's girlfriend asks him if maybe they could stop going out with each other now. The sort who would rush out and drink some cider and be sick and break a window. And tell his friends all about it on his mobile for longer than the whole affair actually took to blossom, wilt and go slimey.

The fantastic thing about being 12 inside is that all this rubbish is deadly important and signifies bigger things later on, but with more pain. The fantastic thing about Ben Kweller is that he has a prodigious ability to relive and revive all this for us, by approximating the best bits of pop music and sticking them in all the wrong places. His talent is at least large building size, if not major landmass.

Each of the eleven potent songs on this album (endorsed by Adam Duritz of Counting Crows and the whole of Wilco) are almost throw aways. The sha shas and the doo doos are all miniature "this is where they go" bits, waiting for Phil Spector to beef them up later when he comes out of cryonic supsension. The wind up the mosh pits bits are sustained for maybe four bars, but then dumped and its on to the next sensational tune bit. It's pop snacking as high art. No serous dilemmas, no spiritual depth, no intellectual encounters. Just great pop music played with style by a kid for kids. About bloody time. And don't be deceived by the apparent simplicity. It's devilishly cute stuff. Listen out for the killer French horn in "wasted and ready".

If you really like this you'll already have enjoyed Eels, Steven Malkmus, Nirvana and Dion and the Belmonts.



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