Ben Kweller with Centro-matic

Amid the current bombardment of young pop-star wannabes--I mean artists--there's finally one who is everything they aren't: real and really good. Enter Ben Kweller, a barely legal singer-songwriter-piano player-guitarist-whatever else it takes to put something a little different out there. While most prepubescent boys were spending their days using video controllers as opposable thumbs, Kweller was fronting his own three-piece band, Radish, and signing record deals. Four years after the band split, he's found himself with another record deal and a new album. Sure, last year's Sha Sha is fun, but the freshness of actually caring for the music shouldn't be overlooked. Though there have been comparisons to Rivers Cuomo, Neil Young, Ben Folds and an array of others whose traits seem to pop up on the album, it shouldn't be forgotten that this guy is doing something different. It's one thing if Kweller sang for one-sided listeners, gave them pop or punk, rock or folk, but he doesn't. He effortlessly mixes personalities--rock star, boy next door, poet, swank sci-fi nerd--making him perfect for club performances or sitting across from you on a couch with his guitar. He sings, "It's going to take a lot of time before I can cross that finish line"; it's hard not to guess that the line is closer than he thinks.


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