Ben Kweller

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If Ben Kweller was a member of "Our Gang," Follies 2006 would be the best one yet. And that's without monkeys in bustles or prepubescent hula girls. After all, Kweller's floppy-haired look has been a selling point since he was a kid himself. But though his latest album has all the endearing cadence and chemistry of a group of ramshackle rascals, something's different this time. He's growing up. And as the wunderkind matures, it becomes harder to ignore that what Kweller isn't turns out to be just as important as what he is. He plays all the instruments here, and though his lyrical themes are simple and bright-eyed, Kweller isn't obsessed with his own talent or emotions. And unlike many epicene stars on the pop charts, Kweller's boyish vocals happen naturally. From "Run," the Welcome to Asbury Park-inspired opening track, to the chorus-less piano romp "Thirteen" (a love note to his new wife), Kweller's lighthearted take on life and the universe is completely honest. Elsewhere, "Nothing Happening" has all the orchestral maneuvers of Wings-era McCartney, and "Red Eye," while sans twang, is still great alt-country. Kid's growing up, alright — and his abilities are all elevated here.

Eve Doster is the listings editor of Metro Times. Send comments to edoster@metrotimes.com.

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