On His Way…Still
Perhaps itâ€šÃ„Ã´s because he got hitched, or simply that heâ€šÃ„Ã´s a couple more years into his twenties, but whatever the reason, Ben Kwellerâ€šÃ„Ã´s On My Way attempts to shirk the adorable naivety that characterized Sha Sha. The result is a milder, far less showy release where Kweller prods at an elusive maturity. With his adolescent, cracking vocals however, itâ€šÃ„Ã´s a tough sell, and what you are left with is an album thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s not only less playful than his previous endeavor, but also less fun.
If OMW aims at maturity, then the Texan-turned-New Yorker shoots himself square in the foot at times. On the title track, he relates to his mom the tired line â€šÃ„ÃºIâ€šÃ„Ã´m in love with someone / whoâ€šÃ„Ã´s as pretty as flower.â€šÃ„Ã¹ Pretty as a flower? Though it works in the context of the songâ€šÃ„Ã´s welcoming simplicity, it doesnâ€šÃ„Ã´t help to convince you of his adulthood. His efforts arenâ€šÃ„Ã´t completely lost though. â€šÃ„ÃºLiving Lifeâ€šÃ„Ã¹ has Kweller confront lifeâ€šÃ„Ã´s expectations, pointing out that â€šÃ„ÃºThe greenest trees youâ€šÃ„Ã´ll ever see / Are the ones in your mind.â€šÃ„Ã¹
Though on the whole much tamer than Sha Sha, OMWâ€šÃ„Ã´s best moments are the rockinâ€šÃ„Ã´ ones (the exception being the grating â€šÃ„ÃºAnn Disasterâ€šÃ„Ã¹) that lend themselves perfectly to Kwellerâ€šÃ„Ã´s voice. The Violent Femmes-inspired â€šÃ„ÃºThe Rulesâ€šÃ„Ã¹ is an uncharacteristically aggressive track with some energetic Kweller screaming that leaves you wanting seconds. Unfortunately, these moments are too few, with the final three tracks that drift from memory even before theyâ€šÃ„Ã´re over. Lacking Sha Shaâ€šÃ„Ã´s charm, and falling short of credible maturity, OMW shows that Kweller remains just that – on his way.